Important Update on The Blackhorse Museum at Fort Irwin
For some time now, there have been rumors about the future of the Blackhorse Museum at Fort Irwin. As most of you know, it is currently not only the Regimental Museum; it is also the museum for the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. All of this is about to change. Below is an extract of a note sent to our President, Glenn Snodgrass, by then-Museum OIC, First Lieutenant Evan M. Fitzgerald. The note is followed by an email extract from the current Museum OIC.
It has come to my attention that there is no small amount of concern from the Blackhorse Veteran community about our unit museum on Fort Irwin. I can assure you that those concerns are also being felt by both the leadership of the Regiment and of Fort Irwin. The catalyst for these worries stems from a visit from the Center for Military History in June of this year. I served as the escort officer for the Chief of Field Museums during that visit to the post and was privy to all but one of the meetings she attended. I would like to share some of my thoughts and insights with you about the visit.
While the Chief of Field Museums was here, she visited with post leadership, including the deputy post commander, garrison commander and of course the 11th ACR commander to name a few. It was very clear through these conversations just how important the museum is not only to the 11th ACR, but also to Fort Irwin. One of the biggest concerns was with the building itself, and what it contains.
Within the next year, the Center for Military History (CMH) is going to be undertaking an entire redesign/remodel of the museum. CMH will be funding the entire multi-million dollar project, which is outstanding because garrison does not have the funding to do so. This rejuvenation of the building will occur both inside and out, the parking lot is due to be repaved, monument vehicles are going to be repainted and the building itself will also be repainted. There was also serious discussion about adding additional vehicle displays in the overly large parking lot out front of the museum.
The museum building is going to be gutted and completely redone to improve the storyline of the Regiment. We have already made clear the importance of the WW2, Vietnam, and Fulda Gap eras to CMH, which will factor these into the final design. Once work starts, the museum will have to close its doors for a period of time (4 months to 1 year has been thrown out there as a ballpark figure, depending on the final budget). Fort Irwin may retain some of its storyline in the museum, but that has yet to be seen as CMH considers our museum a unit museum and not a post museum.
This raises the question of what will happen to the artifacts during and after construction. CMH is not interested in artifacts similar to what it already has in its collection; as a matter of fact they want to downsize their collection. What they are looking for are historically significant pieces, such as HMMWV #1 that the Regiment owns but has never displayed publicly. As far as vehicles such as the HQ6 half-track, the Yano helicopter and other Regimentally-affiliated artifacts of significance that CMH already has versions of, CMH is not interested. It is likely that the museum will actually be getting artifacts back from CMH that they previously took in 2012. If there is something of particular significance that must be retained, please speak to Mr. Penman (the museum curator) so that he can help.
One of the points that came up time and time again during these meetings was the importance of the museum to Fort Irwin and the 11th ACR and the passionate desire to have it open (for visitors) as much as possible. It is a place for the active Regiment to relive its past, and for our Veterans, a place to share with their friends, families and future generations. The intent of CMH is to improve upon and turn our museum into a world-class facility similar to places like the National Infantry Museum (NIM) just outside of Fort Benning. There likely will also be work done on the museum’s website, and ideally a place for revolving exhibits that can have video tours given online as it is not always possible to get all the way out to the Mojave every time something new pops up.
In a follow-up email, 2nd Lieutenant Julia Martin, who replaced Lieutenant Fitzgerald as the Museum Officer in Charge, sent this additional information:
I know that LT Evan Fitzgerald has sent you an email, but I want to reemphasize a few crucial points:
– The new museum is being redesigned specifically for the 11th ACR, meaning that there will no longer be an NTC portion, and that the sole focus will be on Regimental history. One of the main objectives during the redesign is to put a larger emphasis on WWII, Vietnam and Cold War eras.
– CMH will come in and claim SOME additional artifacts (only those significant to the history of the Army as a whole). They are going to allow us to retain and return the artifacts that have special and singular significance to the Regiment. Additionally, they are going to ensure that this redesign showcases and preserves our artifacts in a way that befits their historical significance. These artifacts will be transferred to the 11th ACR hand receipt.
– The museum will close for a period, but we are working on a smaller alternate location to display our history during that time.
This museum will always be a Soldiers’ museum, but a museum needs so much more than artifacts. Since Mr. Penman [the curator of the museum] currently has no way of accepting donated artifacts (and understands why many are unwilling to donate anything right now), we would like to ask members of the Blackhorse Association for a different kind of donation to the museum.
Mr. Penman is in the process of writing a new storyline for the museum; during this process we are looking for memoirs from past Troopers. While we can’t give display space to every single story, we want to collect and preserve as many first-person accounts of our history as possible. If anyone, including spouses, is willing to share their stories, memoirs, and photographs, please have them email me at
This is our museum, and we absolutely want the Blackhorse Association to have a voice during this process. So please feel free to contact me via email or phone with any questions or concerns.