PCS Guide: Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson, Alaska

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, adjacent to the Anchorage, is the largest Air Force installation in Alaska and hosts the headquarters for the U.S. Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force, U.S. Army Alaska and the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.

On July 30, 2010, the 673nd Air Base Wing activated as the host wing combining installation management functions of Elmendorf's 3rd Wing and the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Richardson. It consists of four groups operating and maintaining a Joint Base for air sovereignty, combat training, force staging and throughout put operations in support of worldwide contingencies.

Construction on Elmendorf Field began on June 8, 1940, as a major and permanent military air field near Anchorage. The first Air Corps personnel arrived in August, and in November, the War Department formally designated what had been popularly referred to as Elmendorf Field as Fort Richardson.

The air facilities on the post were named Elmendorf Field in honor of Capt. Hugh M. Elmendorf, killed in 1933 while flight testing an experimental fighter near Wright Field, Ohio.

After World War II, the Army moved its operations to the new Fort Richardson and the Air Force assumed control of the original Fort Richardson and renamed it Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The first Air Force unit to be assigned to Alaska, the 18th Pursuit Squadron, arrived in February 1941. The 23rd Air Base Group was assigned shortly afterwards to provide base support. Other Air Force units poured into Alaska as the Japanese threat developed into World War II. The 11th Air Force was formed at Elmendorf in early 1942. The field played a vital role as the main air logistics center and staging area during the Aleutian Campaign and later air operations against the Kurile Islands.

Following World War II, Elmendorf assumed an increasing role in the defense of North America as the uncertain wartime relations between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated into the Cold War. The 11th Air Force was redesignated as the Alaskan Air Command in December 1945.

The uncertain world situation in late l940s and early l950s caused a major buildup of air defense forces in Alaska. The propeller-driven F-5ls were replaced with F-80 jets, which in turn were replaced in succession by F-94s, F-89s, and F-102s interceptor aircraft for defense of North America.

The Air Force built an extensive aircraft control and warning radar system with sites located throughout Alaska's interior and coastal regions. Air defense forces reached their zenith in l957 with almost 200 fighter aircraft assigned to six fighter interceptor squadrons located at Elmendorf and Ladd AFB. Eighteen aircraft control and warning radar sites controlled their operations. Elmendorf earned the motto "Top Cover for North America." AAC adopted the motto as its own in 1969.

The strategic importance of Elmendorf was graphically realized during the spring of l980 when the l8th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed eight of its F-4Es to Korea to participate in exercise Team Spirit. It was a historical first and underlined an increasing emphasis AAC placed on its tactical role. The strategic location of Elmendorf and Alaska made it an excellent deployment center, a fact that validated the contention of Billy Mitchell who, in l935, stated that "Alaska is the most strategic place in the world." Deployments from Elmendorf to the Far East are now conducted on a routine basis.

The l980s witnessed a period of growth and modernization of Elmendorf. During l982, the 2lst Tactical Fighter Wing converted from F-4s to F-l5s. Construction of an enhanced Regional Operations Control Center and replacement of the l950s generation aircraft control and warning radars also began. The Alaskan Command was reestablished in 1989 as a sub unified joint service command under the Pacific Command due to Alaska's military importance in the Pacific region.

Today, Elmendorf continues to grow in size and importance because of its strategic location and training facilities. Cope Thunder exercises, formerly held in the Philippines, moved to ranges near Eielson with Elmendorf regularly hosts visiting wings and even participates in the exercises. The Wing now has responsibilities far beyond the vast borders of Alaska.

(Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson history and information are gathered from historical facts. Courtesy of the 17th Training Wing Public Affairs..)