Ft. Meyer Army base dates from the Civil War. Originally named Fort Whipple, it and adjacent Arlington National Cemetery are on land once owned by General Robert E. Lee.
The fort, with its high elevation making it ideal for signal communications, was one of the stronger fortifications defending the Union capital across the Potomac River during the war. Some of the first official flying tests were conducted here.
Henderson Hall, built between 1943 and 1952 has served as the Headquarters Battalion for the US Marine Corps, having initially been designated as a Marine Headquarters and Service Company in 1942.
Ft. McNair has been an army post for more than 200 years, established in 1791 as an arsenal. It was included in Pierre L’Enfant’s plans for the new capital city as a major site for its defense.
Ft. Meyer is home to the Army’s main honor guard unit which provides ceremonial support for services at Arlington National Cemetery and participates in ceremonies throughout the Washington, DC area. It also has troop and family support activities such as PX, commissary and recreation services. The Marine Corps’ Headquarters battalion is based at Henderson Hall. The National Defense University and the Inter-American Defense College are located on Ft. McNair. Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has the mission of providing service and support to active duty and reserve military, civilians, and retirees and their families in the National Capital Region, including deployment of homeland defense forces in support of civil authorities in the region.
The base is centrally located in Washington, DC, in close proximity to rail and bus commuter services. The DC area, while one of the worst in the nation for traffic congestion, is a vibrant cultural environment with a wide array of cultural, sports, historical and entertainment venues. With an internationally diverse community, the Washington area offers a remarkable selection of music, dining, and art from around the world. The downtown area and the suburbs have an active night life for all ages.
Education for dependents can be either through local public schools or private schools, depending on the location of one’s residence or personal choice. School systems in the Washington area, particularly those in suburban Maryland and northern Virginia, rank among the best in the nation. Local hospitals are world class, and in addition a primary care clinic is located on Ft. Myer. The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which is accessible by metro rail, offers medical service to active and retired military and their families.
On-base housing at Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall is very limited, including bachelor housing and TDY accommodations, but military personnel can save money on many rentals in the area through the Rental Partnership Program. For information on housing in the Washington area, check the DOD Automated Housing Referral Network. (https://www.ahrn.com/)
In addition to being the site of some of the army’s first aviation tests, Ft. Myer once served as home to the famous ‘Buffalo Soldiers.’ Ft. McNair is one of the few U.S. Army bases that comes with its own ghost. The spirit of Mary Surratt, the woman who was hung there in connection with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, reportedly wanders the post bemoaning her fate.