Camp David

camp david

Camp David is the country retreat of the President of the United States and his guests. It is located in low wooded hills about 100 km (60 mi) northwest of Washington, D.C., on the property of Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland. It is officially known as Naval Support Facility Thurmont and technically a military installation; staffing is primarily provided by the Navy and Marine Corps.

It was originally built as a camp for federal government agents and their families, by the Works Progress Administration, starting in 1935. In 1942, it was converted to a presidential retreat by Franklin D. Roosevelt and renamed Shangri-La. Camp David received its present name from Dwight D. Eisenhower, in honor of his father and grandson, both named David.

Camp David is not open to the general public, and Catoctin Mountain Park does not indicate the location on its official park maps due to privacy and security concerns. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has made use of Camp David. Roosevelt hosted Sir Winston Churchill in May 1943. Harry S. Truman rarely visited Camp David, because his wife Bess found it ‘dull.’ Dwight Eisenhower held the first cabinet meeting there. John F. Kennedy and his family often enjoyed horseback riding and other recreational activities. Kennedy often allowed White House staff and cabinet members to use the retreat when he or his family were not there. Richard Nixon was a frequent visitor and did much to add to and modernize the facilities. Gerald Ford often rode his snowmobile around Camp David.

Jimmy Carter brokered the Camp David Accords there in September 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Ronald Reagan visited the retreat more than any other president. Dorothy Bush Koch, the daughter of George H.W. Bush was the first person ever to be married there, in 1992. Bill Clinton used Camp David more as his tenure in office progressed, and hosted then British Prime Minister Tony Blair on several occasions in addition to numerous celebrities. Barack Obama made the camp’s Evergreen Chapel his primary place of worship, as George W. Bush had done before him.

The camp is alleged to be one of the most secure facilities in the world. The facility is guarded by one of the United States Marine Corps’ most elite units, Marine Security Company, Camp David (MSC-CD). Each marine is hand-picked from the infantry field and sent through a battery of psychological and physical tests. Selected marines must then undergo specialized security training at the Marine Corps Security Forces School in Chesapeake, Virginia. After 12 months of service at Camp David, servicemen are awarded the Presidential Service Badge. Tours of duty at Camp David typically last for 18 to 24 months.

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