National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center offers interactive galleries and immersive attractions
As winner of numerous awards to include USA Today’s prestigious Readers’ Choice Award for “America’s #1 Best History Museum,” the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center provides a truly amazing learning experience for visitors of all ages.
Located at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, the 190,000-square-foot museum is situated on a beautifully manicured 155-acre campus. The impressive facility is easy to locate and similar in size and scope to buildings found in our nation’s capital of Washington D.C. The Infantry Museum continues to receive praise in its efforts “to preserve and display one of the greatest collections of military artifacts in the world (TripAdvisor).”
According to Cyndy Cerbin, director of communications for the museum’s foundation, “The museum has been named USA Today’s ‘Best Free Museum in America’ three times and ‘Best History Museum’ once. In addition, CNN Travel included the museum on its list of the ‘12 Best Military Museums in the World,’ while earning a 5-star rating from TripAdvisor and a global award for excellence from the Themed Entertainment Association.”
“The National Infantry Museum was once housed in a former hospital building at Fort Benning,” says Cerbin. “Conditions were less than ideal for the museum’s massive and enviable collection and traveling through access control points at the Army post deterred the public from visiting. Visionaries in the community decided the time had come to replace the inadequate structure with a new, multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art facility that provides easy access for all and helped in spreading the message that freedom is not free.”
Interactive galleries are quite large and provide the impression that several museums are housed inside a single building. A key focus is on America’s greatest wars to include the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, all the while telling the story of our nation’s past with the latest in technological innovation, according to the museum’s website.
“The Family Gallery pays tribute to loved ones whose sacrifices are every bit as great as the soldiers’,” adds Cerbin. “The Fort Benning Gallery examines what it takes to train young men and women to be warriors. There are also interesting galleries dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients, distinguished Rangers, and Officer Candidate School graduates. Recent additions include a fascinating Global Presence gallery which chronicles the involvement of U.S. Infantrymen around the world from 1989 to the present.”
Aside from the interactive galleries, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center offers immersive attractions such as the Giant Screen Theater for larger-than-life documentaries and DownRange Combat Simulators for the experience of being an Infantry soldier. Visitors will also enjoy dining at The Fife and Drum Restaurant & Bar and souvenirs are available at the Soldier Store.
Attractions outside the museum include beautiful monuments and memorials. Not to be missed are Heritage Walk, the Vietnam Memorial Plaza, the POW Monument, Global War on Terrorism Memorial, and an impressive collection of armored military vehicles.
“Also, a fully renovated set of seven World War II-era buildings allows visitors to see what life was like for soldiers during the war,” says Cerbin. “A meticulously groomed five-acre parade field hosts weekly graduations of the Army’s newest Soldiers. As they pass in review before stands filled with family members from across the country, basic training graduates are marched across ground that has been seeded with sacred soil from eight Infantry battlefields around the world.”
“The museum serves a wide variety of visitors. Heritage training is provided to soldiers during their time at Fort Benning. When those new soldiers graduate, they bring their families to the museum to show them the legacy of the brotherhood they’ve joined,” adds Cerbin. “It’s a place of gathering and remembrance for many veterans and teaches civilians and schoolchildren about how America’s freedom was won and maintained for more than 245 years.”
Incidentally, before being closed for 20 months due to the pandemic, more than 3 million visitors viewed the museum with an average of 300,000 per year. Today, the museum and its 70,000 artifacts are managed under the guidance of the National Infantry Museum Foundation, a 501(c)3, in partnership with Fort Benning and the Army’s Center of Military History.
General Colin Powell and other dignitaries dedicated the $110 million building in June of 2009. Since its formal opening, the facility has served the Columbus community as a premier venue for events to include corporate meetings, musical concerts, and elegant weddings in the Grand Hall.
The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center is truly an important destination for any traveler interested in American history. The museum’s primary mission of honoring the legacy and valor of the U.S. Army Infantryman has not only been met, but greatly exceeded in many different ways.
IF YOU GO:
Located at 1775 Legacy Way, Columbus, Georgia, about seven miles from downtown Columbus with easy access into the Fort Benning Military Reservation, The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center tour is self-guided with available assistance from volunteers. Suggested time is three hours or more to view the main galleries.
Times of Operation: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5p.m., and Sunday, 11a.m-5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays except major federal holidays.
Parking and admission are free; however, donations are appreciated to support the private, nonprofit museum. Separate charges apply to experience the Giant Screen Theater, Combat Simulators, and Fife and Drum Restaurant. The facility is handicap accessible; wheelchairs and strollers are available.
Additional information can be found at nationalinfantrymuseum.org, on major social media sites, or by phone, 706-685-5800.
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Story by Hank Segars, photos by Hank Segars and contributed by National Infantry Museum, published in the January-February 2022 issue of Lakelife magazine.