By 2nd Lt. Leanne Caballer, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 07, 2012
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- --
Base Closure and Realignment Commission Recommendation 146, called for the merging of McGuire Air Force Base, Army's Fort Dix and Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, in 2005. Today, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home of the 87th Air Base wing, supporting more than 44,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and their family members. JBMDL provides a diverse range of combat capabilities, with 80 mission partners and 40 mission commanders.
JBMDL is bordered by two of the largest counties in New Jersey, Ocean and Burlington. The base is approximately 15 miles from Trenton, 45 minutes from Philadelphia and Atlantic City, and 90 minutes from New York City. Atlantic city is popular for casino gaming, spas, world class entertainment, nightlife, fine dining, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, golfing, water sports and shopping. Philadelphia has wonderful dining opportunities, museums and excellent shopping locations.
On average, the coolest month is January, with a recorded high of 39 degrees Fahrenheit and the low, 22 degrees Fahrenheit. JBMDL experiences the most precipitation in July. July is also the warmest month on average. The highest recorded temperature for the area dates back to 1936 at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In 1935, the area experienced its lowest temperature of -16 degrees Fahrenheit.
The historical roots of JBMDL date back to 1917, near the resort town of Lakehurst, New Jersey. The location was named Camp Kendrick by the Army and was utilized as a munitions and mustard gas testing location.
Named after Maj. Gen John Adams Dix, Camp Dix closely neighbored Camp Kendrick. Camp Dix was also developed in 1917 to serve as a training and staging location for the increased troop requirements of World War I. Camp Dix trained and deployed the 87th and 34th Infantry Divisions, along with the 78th "Lightning Division" and "Point of the Wedge."
With the end of World War I, massive numbers of troops and training requirements from both camps were no longer necessary. Camp Dix became a training facility for National Guard and Army Reserve units after the war. The Navy soon saw the location as a perfect place to continue their "lighter-than-air" campaign. In 1919 the Navy began building an air station. Lakehurst Hangar One was created to house the United States' airships, the Shenandoah. Shortly after, the Navy bought Camp Kendrick from the Army, and renamed it Naval Air Station Lakehurst. NAS Lakehurst became the nation's first Trans-Atlantic International Airport and birthplace of the LZ 129 Hindenburg. Tragically, on May 6th, 1937, the Hindenburg crashed at Lakehurst killing 37 people.
Despite such a historical tragedy, the Navy continued to develop the area, purchasing an additional 5, 892 acres and earning the title of the largest naval installation east of the Mississippi at 7,430 acres.
In 1939, Camp Dix expanded as well; adding 35,000 acres for artillery grounds and training ranges. Camp Dix soon became permanent Army installation Fort Dix. Operations diversified when the CCC runway was built, making Fort Dix an air base capable of providing aerial support to the Army post.
As history projects, with the conclusion of any major conflict comes the scaling down of training and deployment needs. Fort Dix closed in 1946 and re-opened as an Air Force base named after Major Thomas B. McGuire, a famous World War II pilot. Although an Air Force base, army training still occurred under the name of Fort Dix. In 1947 the base became a Basic Training Center, and then an Army Training Center In 1956.
With the beginning of the Vietnam War, Fort Dix again revamped training. The army created a mock Vietnamese village to provide soldiers with realistic simulation training. On a similar note, NAS Lakehurst revised its mission to fit the necessities of the Vietnam War. Lakehurst became home to the Navy's first helicopter squadrons and a repair center for aircraft.
McGuire became the center for transporting troops around the world and soon nicknamed the "Gateway to the East." Transport aircraft included the C54 Skymaster, C118 liftmaster and the C-135 Stratolifter. KC-10 Extenders joined the C-141 starlifter to support Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Throughout the years following, the area received considerable attention by several base realignment and closure commissions. As a result, Fort Dix became a reserve Army base. Finally with the 2005 BRAC, the three bases were joined; making up the joint base it is today; McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The combination allows for a diverse set of mission capabilities. McGuire is still considered the "Gateway of the East" and serves as an "Air Mobility Center of Excellence." The Marines also have a roll at the JB MDL, bringing the airborne fighting capability to the base. Lakehurst serves as a testing and development facility. Today, Dix continues to focus on training Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy forces in multiple developmental roles targeted towards winning today and tomorrow's fight.