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Inside Look: U.S. Army War College’s new Root Hall presents ‘dramatic difference’ compared to previous building

Army War College's new Root Hall (U.S. Army War College/Facebook)
September 02, 2023

Have you ever driven past the same building day after day and wondered what it looks like inside?

Have you ever only seen a space from the street and wondered what lies within?

Maybe the location is closed to the public, or maybe you’ve just never had a reason to go in.

Now you don’t have to.

The Sentinel’s Inside Look series aims to take readers into the curious places Cumberland County has to offer from the comfort of their living rooms.

Join us every other week for a video and photo gallery of new, or sometimes very old, local places that are just waiting to be explored.

U.S. Army War College’s Root Hall

It’s a changing of the guards, so to speak, as the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks shifts operations from Root Hall to its new academic building.

Public Affairs and Legislative Liaison Brian Fickel believes students and staff will notice a “dramatic difference” in the new structure.

Construction on the new building began in April 2020 and the college occupied the space July 30, just before the start of the academic year.

The new building will replace Root Hall, now called building 122, which was constructed in 1967 and will be demolished within the next year, Fickel said.

Its footprint will be converted to green space, however its name will live on at the new building, which will also be called Root Hall in honor of U.S. Army War College founder Elihu Root.

“Every element of the building was very intentional,” Fickel said of the new Root Hall.

The 201,000-square-foot space unfolds over four floors including a terrace level. Study spaces are sprinkled throughout the building and many rooms contain furniture on wheels that can easily be rearranged to best serve its function.

The terrace level contains the stacks that store the college’s most-used holdings. Additional books and research materials are at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. A portion of the Knowledge Commons, or library, and the food court can also be found on the first floor.

The Tasker Bliss Auditorium, named after Brig. Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, extends from the terrace level up to the first floor, and is used for speaking events for the entire student body.

Also on the first floor is the decision innovation hub, a multiroom space with collaboration areas, podcast rooms and a lab.

Floors two and three are mostly used for offices and seminar rooms. Fickel said the college has 24 seminars, each with 16 students.

All students work for about 10 months toward the same degree: a master’s in strategic studies. While the majority of the students in each seminar are in the Army, Fickel said there are typically a few in other branches of the military, as well as some international students and civilians.

“Officers worked really hard for a long time at this level,” he said. “So it’s a year for them to spend time to kind of balance … they can spend more time with family, do a lot of reading, writing [and] thinking about strategic issues and kind of enjoy the Carlisle environment.”

The new Root Hall is a far cry from the building that preceded it.

A 2020 U.S. Army War College graduate, Fickel described the old Root Hall as a “worn out” and “rough” building.

“It had a library and it had very small seminar rooms and that was it,” he said. “There was no space like this. So there was no space where people could come and collaborate and talk. It was just big enough for seminar rooms. … This building was very intentionally designed to kind of help students collaborate.”

In spite of a modern design, the new Root Hall incorporates historical elements of the War College’s past with strategically placed display cases throughout the building that contain relevant artifacts from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education center.

While the building is open for use, Fickel said a few cosmetic and technological adjustments remain to be made, including the installation of a three-story digital wall near the main entrance on the first floor.

A formal ribbon cutting will be held at the new Root Hall Oct. 25.


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