By Pamela Little, P.E., PMP, M.SAME , and Randall Bailey, P.E., PMP, F.ASCE, M.SAME

Training an estimated 50 percent of all new soldiers each year, Fort Jackson, S.C., is the largest initial entry training center in the U.S. Army. The complex receives trainees throughout the day and night. Enlistee processing is administered by the 120th Adjutant General Battalion. Providing the Army with freshly trained soldiers is one of Fort Jackson’s primary responsibilities, earning it the motto “Victory Starts Here.”

To meet this mission requires the base to have facilities that feed, house, administratively process, and properly outfit the men and women beginning their service. The existing infrastructure, built in the early 1970s, serves as a major southeastern gateway for in-processing and boot camp. However, annual trainee throughput now approaches 50,000 soldiers, an inconceivable number in 1970.

Not surprisingly, these overused and deficient facilities have led to non-compliance with many life, health, and safety codes. Additionally, the now-inadequately sized facilities require around-the-clock operations, which is a less than ideal operating condition for the military and civilian staffs. New and upgraded facilities were required for the installation to meet the modern demands of its mission.


To remedy the current situation, Fort Jackson contracted with the Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to administer the design and construction of an improvement program. The base began conducting planning charettes, and in 2018, the initial Parametric Design Report recommended a two-phased approach featuring new and refurbished facilities.

Phase I included the construction of a new dining facility, a temporary dining facility for use until a new one was operational, and a new clothing issuance facility. This work was designed by in-house staff at USACE Savannah and Charleston Districts. Design was completed in 2019 and construction awarded in March 2021.

Phase II of the program included the design of a new multi-facility reception complex totaling 182,163-ft². Design scope of the second phase consisted of a reception processing center incorporating the new 120th Reception Battalion Headquarters; a medical and dental clinic with spaces for audiology, immunizations, and optometry; barracks for 300 enlistees; an optical fabrication laboratory that manufacturers prescription eyeglasses for trainees and soldiers; a general purpose storage building; a telecommunications building; a physical training track; and a swing space that would house a temporary facility to support the reception operations while the new complex was under construction.

The reception building, barracks, and optical laboratory are expected to achieve LEED Silver certification upon completion. The original approved construction cost limit, including all components, was to be $54 million.


The design team, led by Pond, also included Johnson McAdams, Crawford Consulting, United Consulting, NV5, ABS Environmental, GEL Engineering, SafeMark, and Carolina Safety. The overall design effort required collaboration between architects, engineers, cost consultants, environmental specialists, geotechnical consultants, land surveyors, safety professionals, and sustainability experts.

In spring 2019, the project team conducted a comprehensive design charrette. While the large list of stakeholders led to protracted meetings, it was important to allow for designers to fully understand all the explicit and implied mission requirements of Fort Jackson’s many user groups: the commander and staff for the Reception Battalion; medical clinic users and commanders; installation leadership; privatized and non-privatized utility providers; and the Directorate of Public Works that is responsible for facility operations and maintenance. The goal was clear: to ensure upfront buy-in and reduce costly re-designs later.

During the initial charrette, the team developed three site layout options. The selected design featured several key elements: a reception building incorporating the in-processing operations and support services; a medical and dental clinic; and a new 120th Reception Battalion Headquarters. Construction would be in the same location as the former reception building.

However, during the charrette it was noted that the project programming as documented in the DD1391 did not allow for development of the entire project scope. Following discussion, the design effort was paused to allow for a reprogramming to ensure that the scope could be realized. A new DD1391 was developed that indicated an increased program value to achieve the project vision.

Additional funding was approved by Congress in the fall of 2019, allowing for a total construction cost limit of $88 million. Following funding approval, a second design charrette was held in January 2020, after which full design efforts commenced.


There were a number of challenges the project needed to overcome, none more so than a physical training track that was to be located over a former landfill. Such construction presents specific concerns for structural integrity and hazard mitigation. In addition, not only was the sited area very steep, overgrown, and nearly inaccessible with construction rubble and debris, it had contaminated groundwater undergoing pump-and-treat remediation for decades before reaching acceptable final levels.

The cost of constructing the track at this location was exorbitantly high. On top of the amount of cut, fill, and transport, the chosen site was inconvenient to the rest of the complex, which presented a logistical challenge of getting enlistees to and from the track in a timely manner. To help minimize costs, the team worked to balance the cut and fill within the site and made the track a bid option.

Late in the 95 percent design phase, the garrison commander made the decision to remove the track from the project, but keep it within the program in order to construct it later in a more feasible location. This scope change resulted in a ripple effect that required significant redesign of the site hydrology, detention, water quality, site electrical, and sustainability certification. The team worked together to execute this modification efficiently, keeping the final deliverable on time and meeting stakeholder expectations.

When the track was pulled from the project late in the design, an estimated 15 points for LEED certification were reduced or eliminated from consideration. This caused the team to quickly identify other credits to pursue to still have a chance to achieve certification. Creative approaches included pursuing certification as a campus; pushing the design for exemplary performance points; and pursuing multiple innovation credits incorporating sustainability education and highlighting Army core values with corresponding graphics on large wall coverings in lobbies and hallways, some up to 20-ft in length.

Another challenge was incorporating efficient medical and dental clinic operations in the reception building. Through additional coordination and quality assurance, the design team ensured the clinic was laid out with sufficient space and storage. The solution optimized workflow, provided adequate examination and testing areas, and precisely placed protective and testing equipment that would withstand the anticipated enlistee load. Focusing on details helped produce a fully compliant layout and design that worked well for the customer.

Above all, design changes resulting from unanticipated conditions and requested decision changes by the customer should not be cause for frustration. They are simply part of the normal workflow.


Having navigated the reprogrammed project scope, the 100 percent design was submitted in May 2021 and is currently in client review. The project is expected to be ready to advertise for construction in spring 2022.

When complete, the Reception Command and Processing Operations at Fort Jackson will have an immediate positive and inspiring impact on new trainees when they first step off the bus and see it. Thanks to the strong partnerships developed by the design team and project stakeholders, the new facility will honor the history of the Army and Reception Command, and will meet operational needs for the next 50 years.

Pamela Little, P.E., PMP, M.SAME, is Principal and Associate Vice President, and Randall Bailey, P.E., PMP, F.ASCE, M.SAME, is Senior Project Manager, Pond & Company. They can be reached at; and

[This article first published in the November-December 2021 issue of The Military Engineer.]