The Special Warfare Museum, currently located in a building on Ardennes Street on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is slated to reopen on April 1, 2021 after having closed its doors for more than a year. This is good news for the Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations community – organizations that have had its history on exhibit for decades in a building on Fort Bragg since the 1960s.
Troubled History Over Past Year. The Special Forces Museum has had an interesting history in the last few years. In December 2019 it was ‘closed for inventory’. Then in January 2020 it was announced that the history office of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) would assume responsibility for the museum – so oversight was transferred from the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS) to the United States Army Special Operations Command. The name was changed to the Army Special Operations Forces Museum (U.S. Army) and the plan was to incorporate the history of the Army Rangers and Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). In April 2020 USASOC provided more details that revealed the physical facility of the Special Warfare Museum would be permanently closed (SOF News) and that it would be replaced with an ‘online presence’ and small, periodic ‘exhibit road trips’ to ARSOF units.
Resistance to the Closing of the Museum. The Special Warfare community, past and present, was not happy with the decision by USASOC to change the focus of the museum from special warfare to ARSOF, to have it run by USASOC, and to close the physical location of the museum. Pressure was mounted by a petition drive, social media, the Special Forces Association (SFA) and other organizations, senior officers and NCOs (serving and retired), and other interested parties to keep the museum open in a physical facility and to return it to its ‘Special Warfare’ roots.
USASOC Azimuth Check. In June 2020 the United States Special Operations Command formed an ‘advisory committee’ to study the situation and provide recommendations and courses of action. The members of the council came from serving and former officers and NCO’s of the Army’s special warfare community.
Museum Advisory Committee. A number of meetings were conducted by the committee, they visited the current museum location, and explored other locations on Fort Bragg. There were a host of issues to digest to include space limitations, funding constraints, staffing, who would have ‘ownership’ and oversight, and more. The council provided recommendations to USASOC for consideration later in mid-August 2020.
Back to SWCS. In the fall of 2020 USASOC directed that the museum would once again fall under the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS). It also directed that a new location be found within Bank Hall (on Ardennes Street). The museum’s floor space in Bank Hall will have a significant increase over what the museum currently has for exhibits. Bank Hall is currently under renovation. A recent announcement by SWCS on Facebook indicates that the museum is (currently) called the JFK Special Warfare Museum. It is also being referred to as the USAJFKSWCS Heritage Center. The museum website on soc.mil has yet to be updated on the reopening or any other developments since January 2021.
Visiting the Museum. The museum will open to the public beginning April 1, 2021. The hours of operation will be from 1100 – 1600, Monday through Friday. Admission is free. COVID-19 precautions are being observed – to include mask and physical distancing. The museum is located on Fort Bragg, NC at 2815 Ardennes Street in Building D-2815, across the street from the JFK Chapel.
JFK Museum Store and Yarborough Knife. The JFK Museum Gift Shop, before its closure, was located in Bank Hall and fell under the JFKSWCS Museum Association. The Special Forces Association has assumed responsibility for the museums gift shop and providing of the Yarborough Knife (SFA). The gift shop is now located at SFA HQs on Doc Bennet Road in Fayetteville (near the airport). Merchandise can be bought online (SFA).
Future Outlook. Eventually the museum will be located in Bank Hall on Ardennes Street once the facility is upgraded. This is a positive move for the Army’s special warfare community. Those that took an active role in persuading USASOC to give this issue another look should be commended. Of course, USASOC gets some credit as well for doing the right thing. The staff at the museum should be recognized for its efforts over the past year to complete the extensive inventory that was conducted and to prepare the museum for reopening. The Special Warfare Museum will likely be a key institution preserving SF, CA, and PYSOP history while providing a mechanism for recruiting FBNC-based and visiting soldiers for the Army’s special warfare units.
Top Image: Picture of the front of the Special Warfare Museum when it was located on the corner of Reilly Road and Ardennes Street during the last several decades.
Image of Museum Opening. Posted by USAJFKSWCS on Facebook March 30, 2021.