Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Joint Base Lewis-McChord

JBLM - Emblem.png

Part of United States Army I Corps
United States Army I Corps
Air Mobility Command (AMC)
Located near: Tacoma, Washington
17th Field Artillery Brigade - JBLM.jpg
17th Field Artillery Brigade Fort Lewis
62d AW C-17 loading Army personnel from Fort Lewis.jpg
62d AW C-17 loading Army personnel from Fort Lewis at McChord Field
Coordinates 47°06′21″N 122°33′52″W / 47.10583°N 122.56444°W / 47.10583; -122.56444 (Joint Base Lewis-McChord-AR) (Fort Lewis)
47°08′51″N 122°28′46″W / 47.1475°N 122.47944°W / 47.1475; -122.47944 (Joint Base Lewis-McChord-AF) (McChord Fld)
Built 1917
In use 1916-Present
Controlled by United States Army
Garrison Joint Base Garrison, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Joint Base Garrison (US Army)
627th Air Base Group - Emblem.png 627th Air Base Group (USAF)
Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 322 ft / 98 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
16/34 10,108 3,081 Asphalt/Concrete
160/340 † 3,000 914 Asphalt
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
† Landing Zone (LZ) is for C-130's only: LZ South (16) / LZ North (34)
JBLM McChord Field is located in Washington (state)
JBLM McChord Field
Location of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) (IATA: TCMICAO: KTCMFAA LID: TCM) is a United States military facility located 9.1 miles (14.6 km) south-southwest of Tacoma, Washington. The facility is under the jurisdiction of the United States Army Joint Base Garrison, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The facility is an amalgamation of the United States Army Fort Lewis and the United States Air Force McChord Air Force Base which were merged on 1 February 2010.



JBLM was established in accordance with congressional legislation implementing the recommendations of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The legislation ordered the consolidation of facilities which were adjoining, but separate military installations, into a single joint base – one of 12 joint bases formed in the United States as a result of the law.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a training and mobilization center for all services and is the only Army power-projection platform west of the Rocky Mountains. Its key geographic location provides rapid access to the deep water ports of Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle for deploying equipment. Units can be deployed from McChord Field, and individuals and small groups can also use nearby Sea-Tac Airport. The strategic location of the base provides Air Force units with the ability to conduct combat and humanitarian airlift to any location in the world with the C-17 Globemaster III, the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft in the airlift force.[2]

Like most US military installations, JBLM is closed to the general public, other than during their annual Open House. There is a museum on McChord Field, however, it cannot be visited by the public without prior coordination due to lack of public access.

Joint Base Garrison

The Joint Base Garrison operates the installation on behalf of the warfighting units, families and extended military community who depend on JBLM for support. The mission of the unit is to provide support to mission commanders and the joint base community, to serve as an enabler to the warfighters as they train and project America's combat power, and to make JBLM the station of choice for American warfighters and their families.[2]

With an Army joint base commander and an Air Force deputy joint base commander, the garrison supports the installation through directorates and agencies that provide a full range of city services and quality-of-life functions; everything from facilities maintenance, recreation and family programs to training support and emergency services.[2]

The major organizations that make up the bulk of the Joint Base Garrison include:

  • Directorates of Public Works: Logistics
  • Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation
  • Human Resources; Emergency Services
  • Plans and Training Security and Plans

Additional staff offices that support the installation mission include the Joint Base Public Affairs Office, the Religious Support Office, the Resource Management Office, Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the Installation Safety Office and the Plans. Analysis and Integration Office_ Other partners who work closely with the Joint Base Garrison include the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command and Joint Personal Property Shipping Office.[2]

Three military units support the Joint Base Garrison

  • 1st Joint Mobilization Brigade
Provides command and control and host unit support to mobilizing, deploying and demobilizing reserve component units from all military services
  • 627th Air Base Group
Provides command and control and administrative oversight to the Airmen who perform installation support duties on behalf of the garrison
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Joint Base Garrison
Provides administrative oversight to the Army personnel in the garrison and supports newly arrived Soldiers during their in-processing period.

Fort Lewis

Fort Lewis, named after Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition, is one of the largest and most modern military reservations in the United States. Consisting of 87,000 acres (350 km²) of prairie land cut from the glacier-flattened Nisqually Plain, it is the premier military installation in the northwest and is the most requested duty station in the army.[3]

Fort Lewis major units

Rifle confidence training
Pakistani Special Services Wing carrying FN F2000 rifles while on training at Fort Lewis, 23 July 2007.

The United States Army I Corps commands most Army units at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and conducts planning and liaison with other assigned active and Reserve component units located in the continental United States. It is one of four corps headquarters in the active Army, and one of three based in the continental United States. I Corps has been designated as one of the active Army's contingency corps. I Corps stays prepared to deploy on short notice worldwide to command up to five divisions or a joint task force. [4]

Since I Corps was assigned to Fort Lewis in 1981, soldiers from its units have participated in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War, Operation Provide Comfort for Kurdish Refugees, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. They helped with the restoration of order following the riots in Los Angeles, participated in Operation Safe Harbor in NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Haitian migrants, supported relief efforts following Hurricane Andrew in Florida and Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii, and played a significant role in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and in restoring peace in Kosovo.[4]

I Corps also contributed to the command structure of Operation Desert Storm with the I Corps commander, Lieutenant General Calvin Waller, and the Deputy I Corps commander, Major General Paul Schwartz, assisting General H. Norman Schwarzkopf the commander of American forces. January 15, 2003, marked the 85th anniversary of the activation of the I American Army Corps in Neufchâteau, France. The corps assumed tactical responsibility for troops fighting on the Western Front 4 July 1918. I Corps participated in battles during the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive and the Battle of Meuse-Argonne. After World War I, I Corps was disbanded at Tonnerre, France in 1919.[4]

In 1981, I Corps was reactivated at Fort Lewis. On Oct. 12, 1999, General Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army, announced I Corps would lead the acceleration of Army transformation, training and the initial creation of the first two Stryker Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Lewis.[4]

Since Sept. 11. 2001. I Corps and Fort Lewis assets have been active in providing support for Global War on Terrorism operations, including Operation Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom.[4]

On Feb. 5. 2004, Task Force Olympia was activated, as a sub-element of I Corps headquarters with the mission to command forward-deployed units in Iraq. This marked the first time that I Corps had forward soldiers in combat since the end of the Korean War. Task Force Olympia included units from all three components of the Army (Active, Reserve and National Guard) as well as Marine and Australian officers. Task Force Olympia's subordinate units included the 3d Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2d Infantry Division, which deployed for Iraq on Nov. 8, 2003, and returned to Fort Lewis after one year of combat duty, and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, which departed Fort Lewis on Sept. 15. 2004, for one year and returned September 2005. On June 1, 2006, the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division cased its colors and became the 2d Cavalry Regiment - Stryker Brigade Combat Team with its home station in Germany. A brand-new unit ready to make history then uncased the colors of its new designation on June 1, 2006 - the 4th Brigade, 2d Infantry Division.[4]

Subordinate units assigned to Fort Lewis are:

  • 42d Military Police Brigade
  • 2d Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
  • 3d Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
  • 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
  • 17th Fires Brigade
  • 16th Combat Aviation Brigade
  • 62nd Medical Brigade
  • 201s1 Battlefield Surveillance Brigade
  • 555th Engineer Brigade
  • 593rd Sustainment Brigade
  • Henry H. Lind Noncommissioned Officer Academy
  • 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  • 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment
  • 66th Theater Aviation Command
  • 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
  • Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
  • 404th Army Field Support Brigade
  • Eighth Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command (ROTC)
  • 191st Infantry Brigade
  • Headquarters, 6th Military Police Group (CID)
  • Washington Regional Flight Center
  • Western Regional Medical Command
  • Public Health Command Region-West
  • The KIM Dental Activity
  • The Veterinary Treatment Facility

JBLM Main & JBLM North

JBLM has more than 25,000 soldiers and civilian workers. The post supports over 120,000 military retirees and more than 29,000 family members living both on and off post. Fort Lewis proper contains 86,000 acres (350 km²); the Yakima Training Center covers 324,000 acres (1,310 km²).

JBLM Main & North have abundant high-quality, close-in training areas, including 115 live fire ranges. Additional training space is available at the Yakima Training Center in eastern Washington, including maneuver areas and additional live fire ranges.

In 2009, the former Fort Lewis Regional Correction Facility was remodeled and renamed the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility (NWJRCF). The facility houses minimum and medium security prisoners from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.[5]

During the summer months (June, July, August), JBLM North hosts the Leader Development and Assessment Course, a capstone program for the U.S. Army's ROTC program.

Also adjacent to the post is Camp Murray (Washington National Guard).

Yakima Training Center

Teams of ROTC cadets compete at the water confidence course during Leader Development and Assessment Course training

The Yakima Training Center is a major sub-installation of JBLM, and provides a full range of training lands and ranges to active and reserve component units. Encompassing more than 320,000 acres (1,300 km2), YTC is a world-class facility where units can prepare for any mission they may be called upon to perform.[2]

The training center is high desert, and is covered with sagebrush, volcanic formations, dry gulches and large rock outcroppings. YTC has vast flat valleys separated by intervening ridges which are suited to large-scale mechanized or motorized forces. Much of the steeper terrain resembles areas of Afghanistan. Twenty-five ranges, including the state-of-the-art Multi-Purpose Range Complex and Shoot House, are available for individual or collective training.[2]

Prior to 1941, the area consisted of ranches and a few scattered silica mines. Just before World War II, the Army's need for a large training and maneuver area became apparent, and the Army negotiated with landowners to lease 160,000 acres (650 km2) for the Yakima Anti-Aircraft Artillery Range. Military organizations in the Pacific Northwest used the center for range firing and small unit tests. The first range was constructed in 1942 on Urnptanurn Ridge, 13 miles (21 km) northeast of the present cantonment area.[2]

In 1947, approximately 60,000 acres (240 km2) were cleared of unexploded ammunition and returned to the original owners. During 1949 and 1950, the state of Washington used the center for summer training of its National Guard units and regular Army troops were permanently assigned to the center. At the start of the Korean War, the Army decided to expand Yakima Training Center. In 1951, the Installation was enlarged to 261,451 acres (1,058.05 km2) and construction of the current cantonment area began.[2]

In 1986, a further expansion was initiated, and in 1992, the Army acquired additional land to enlarge YTC to 327,000 acres (1,320 km2). The Multi-Purpose Range Complex opened in 1989, and the Shoot House and Urban Assault Course opened in 2005. YTC has an AAFES shoppette, a recreation center and a gymnasium available to soldiers and their families. The Firing Point community club, with cafeteria, opened in February 2009. [2]

Gray Army Airfield

Chinook helicopters over Gray Army Airfield at Ft. Lewis in 1977
See: Gray Army Airfield for additional information and history.

Gray Army Airfield (IATA: GRFICAO: KGRF), is a military airport located within Fort Lewis. The field is named in honor of Captain Lawrence C. Gray, who lost his life during a free balloon flight at the field on November 4, 1927. It is used by Army helicopters.[6]

Helicopters based at the airfield assisted with medical evacuations at Mount Rainier National Park on numerous occasions in the 1970s. Army helicopters were also used to insert search-and-rescue [SAR] teams into inaccessible areas on the east, north, and west sides of the mountain, lowering rangers to the ground by a cable device known as a "jungle penetrator." Helicopters began assisting with high altitude (above 10,000 feet) SAR operations in the 1980s. Helicopters were also used for "short haul" rescue operations, in which a ranger and litter were carried in a sling below the helicopter to the scene of the accident.[6]

During World War II The Air Transport Command. 4131st Army Air Force Base Unit used GAAF as the CONUS hub for the Alaskan West Coast Wing, ferrying supplies, equipment and aircraft to Eleventh Air Force at Elmendorf Field, near Fairbanks. Also used by Air Technical Service Command as an aircraft maintenance and supply depot; primarily to service aircraft being sent to Alaska. The Army Air Force closed its facilities in 1947.[6]

Fort Lewis history

Camp Lewis c. 1917
MIM-14 Nike Hercules anti-aircraft missile at the Fort Lewis Military Museum
See footnote[7]

Fort Lewis was originally established in 1917 with the passage of a Pierce County bond measure to purchase 70,000 acres (280 km2) of land to donate to the federal government for permanent use as a military installation. In 1927, Pierce County passed another bond measure to establish a military airfield just north of Fort Lewis. The airfield, called Tacoma Field, opened in 1930 and was renamed McChord Field in 1940. McChord Field separated from Fort Lewis when the U.S. Air Force was created in 1947 and was subsequently renamed McChord Air Force Base. The two bases operated independently of one another for over 60 years before being merged in 2010.

Fort Lewis began as Camp Lewis in 1917 when the citizens of Pierce County voted by an eight to one margin to bond themselves for $2 million to buy 68,721 acres (278 km²) of land. They donated the land to the federal government for military use. The only stipulation was that the tract be used as a permanent army post. Captain David L. Stone and his staff arrived at the camp site 26 May 1917, and a few days later the initial construction began. The entire camp was ready for occupancy a month ahead of schedule. In 90 days, Stone had supervised the construction of a "city" of 757 buildings and 422 other structures, all lighted and heated for 60,000 men. The first recruits moved into their new barracks on 5 September 1917, exactly two months after the post building plan had been handed to the contractors.

When they implemented auction of the new cantonment, workmen subscribed $4,000 to build the main gate – which is still standing. The arch was built of fieldstone and squared logs resembling the old blockhouses which stood in the northwest as forts. Some 60,000 men, including the 91st Division, moved into the hastily constructed cantonment to train for World War I. Recruited largely from the northwest, the 91st was considered "Washington's Own." In 1917, Pierce County, through the process of condemnation proceedings (eminent domain), took 3,370 acres (13.6 km2) of the Nisqually Indian Reservation (14 km²) for the Fort Lewis Military Reserve.

The following two years saw tremendous activity at Camp Lewis as men mobilized and trained for war service. Thousands of the nation's youth learned to know Camp Lewis and the state of Washington. With the conclusion of the war, activities at Lewis ground to a standstill. Camp Lewis passed from the hands of Pierce County and became the property of the federal government when the deed for 62,432 acres (253 km²) was recorded in the county auditor's office in Tacoma.

Brigadier General David L. Stone, who had supervised the original construction of Fort Lewis as a captain, returned as its commanding general in 1936, serving until 1937. The project of constructing an army airfield, which later became McChord Air Force Base, directly north of the Fort Lewis installation, received approval as a WPA project in January 1938, and $61,730 was allocated for construction. The allocation provided for clearing, grading, and leveling a runway 6,000 feet (1,800 m) long by 600 feet (180 m) wide.

At the conclusion of World War II, the northwest staging area of Fort Lewis became a separation center and discharged its first soldiers in November 1945. sometime in the early 1960s Interstate 5 was built through the fort separating the northwest corner of the fort, and creating "Northfort". With the departure of the 4th Infantry Division (United States) for Vietnam in 1966, Fort Lewis once again became a personnel transfer and training center. In 1972, the 9th Infantry Division (United States) was reactivated, and trained there until its deactivation in 1991.

The Fort Lewis Military Museum was established in 1972 to preserve and document the post's history.

McChord Field

Satellite view from Mcchord Air Force Base 2 June 2002

Located adjacent to Lakewood, Washington and Parkland, Washington, It was named in honor of Colonel William Caldwell McChord, former Chief of the Training and Operations Division in HQ Army Air Corps and started off as the Army airfield of Fort Lewis.

627th Air Base Group

The 627th Air Base Group exists to maintain the Air Force structure as it relates to organizing, training. and equipping Airmen to deploy. More than 1,000 mission-ready Airmen in the 627th Air Base Group are prepared to provide Expeditionary Combat Support for military operations worldwide. The 627th Air Base Group staff is respon¬sible for the administrative functions in caring for Airmen in the JBLM construct. The office processes all administrative routing of awards, decorations, evaluations, and coordi¬nation of staff summary packages to include OT&E subject matter.

Within the Joint Base Garrison. 627th Airmen carry out the mission day-to-day directly supporting 37,000 military. 10,000 civilians. 52,000 family members, and 17,000 retirees. The group includes civil engineer, logistics, force support, communi¬cations, and security forces squadrons that provide installation support for 4,055 facilities on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

62d Airlift Wing

McChord Field is home to a wide variety of units and missions. The 62d Airlift Wing is the primary United States Air Force active duty wing on McChord Field. The wing is part of Air Mobility Command and provides the Department of Defense a fast, flexible and responsive airlift capability, with a primary mission to develop and sustain expeditionary Airmen to deliver global airlift for America. In addition. as the provider of the Prime Nuclear Airlift Force. the 6nd is the only wing in the Department of Defense tasked to airlift nuclear weapons and materials.

The 62d Operations Group maintains the readiness of more than 2,500 active duty and civilian personnel, along with 43 permanently assigned C-17 Globemaster IIIs, to support combat and humanitarian contingencies. It consists of four airlift squadrons and an operational support squadron.

Other wing components are the 62d Maintenance Group, 62d Mission Support Group and 62d Medical Squadron.

The 62nd Airlift Wing is joined by its Reserve partner the 446th Airlift Wing. Together, the two wings fly 50 C-17 Globemaster IIIs to provide combat airlift for America. Joint Base Lewis-McChord also hosts the Western Air Defense Sector, an Air National Guard unit; the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron; the 361st Recruiting Squadron and a number of other units across the installation.

Other McChord units

Other major units stationed at McChord Field are:

The 446th Airlift Wing has 13 squadrons, four flights and 2200 Air Force Reservists and civilians supporting McChord Field's global C-17 Globemaster Ill missions - airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation. The wing has flown nearly 40 percent of the daily missions out of McChord Field; deployed professionals from a wide range of specialties to locations around the globe and continuously supported the mission here at home. The 446th Operations Group includes the 97th. 728th, and 313th Airlift Squadrons and the Reserve-unique 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
The Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), with headquarters at McChord, is the largest of the United States Air Defense sectors responsible to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Continental NORAD Region for peacetime air sovereignty, strategic air defense, and airborne counter-drug operations in the continental United States. WADS is a Washington Air National Guard unit that reports directly to AFNORTH/1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
  • 1st Air Operations Support Group
  • 22d Special Tactics Squadron
  • 262d Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron
  • 361st Recruiting Squadron

McChord Air Museum

The McChord Air Museum is one of the largest and finest military aircraft museums in the United States.[8]

McChord Field history

McChord Main Gate in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Mt. Rainier in the background.
Main hangar and control tower in July 2005

In 1917, the citizens of Pierce County, Washington approved a bond measure for $2,000,000 to buy 70,000 acres (280 km²) of land to be donated to the Federal Government for use as a military reservation. This land became Camp Lewis (and later Fort Lewis). Ten years later, in 1927, another bond measure was passed to establish an airfield just north of the military reservation. The airfield, named Tacoma Field, officially opened March 14, 1930.[9]

On February 28, 1938 the airfield was officially transferred to the United States Government. Three years after the transfer, on July 3, 1940, the airfield was renamed McChord Field, in honor of Colonel William Caldwell McChord,[10] who had been killed in an accident near Richmond, Virginia on August 18, 1937. Col. McChord, (1881–1937), rated as a junior military aviator in 1918, died while trying to force-land his Northrop A-17 near Maidens, Virginia. At the time of his death, he was Chief of the Training and Operations Division in HQ Army Air Corps. Tacoma Field was renamed McChord Field, 17 December 1937.[11] Over the subsequent two decades McChord Field grew to roughly 3,000 acres (12 km²), encompassing the northern tip of the 70,000 acre (280 km²) Ft. Lewis. It became independent of Ft. Lewis in 1947 following the creation of the Air Force under provisions of the National Security Act of 1947 and was subsequently named McChord AFB.[9]

World War II

In 1940 McChord Field became the headquarters of the GHQ Air Force Northwest Air District, with a mission for the defense of the Pacific Northwest and Upper Great Plains regions of the United States. The 17th Bombardment Group was moved to the new airfield from March Field, California and was equipped with the Douglas B-18 Bolo medium bomber.[9]

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the 17th Bombardment Group flew anti-submarine patrols off the west coast of the United States with the new North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber. As the first unit to operate the B-25, the 17th achieved another "first" on 24 December 1941 when one of its Mitchells dropped four 300-pound bombs on a Japanese submarine near the mouth of the Columbia River. The 17th Bomb Group was reassigned in February 1942 to Columbia Army Air Base in South Carolina, where crews from the group were selected to carry out the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April.[9]

With the departure of the 17th Bomb Group, the mission of McChord Field became supporting the Army Air Forces Training Command's mission of training of units, crews, and individuals for bombardment, fighter, and reconnaissance operations. Northwest Air Force was re-designated at Second Air Force, and became the training organization of B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator heavy bombardment groups.[9]

Nearly all new heavy bomb groups organized after Pearl Harbor were organized and trained at Second Air Force Bases, by II Bomber Command operational training units (OTU) then were deployed to combat commands around the world. McChord trained numerous bombardment squadrons during the war, receiving graduates of AAF Training Command's flight and technical schools and forming them into operational squadrons which were then sent on to second and third phase training prior to being deployed to the overseas combat air forces.[9]

Starting in mid-1943 the training of B-17 and B-24 replacement crews began to be phased out, as the Second Air Force began ramping up training of B-29 Superfortress Very Heavy bomb groups, destined for Twentieth Air Force. Under the newly organized XX Bomber Command, B-29 aircraft were received from Boeing's manufacturing plants at Seattle and Wichita, Kansas with new combat groups were organized and trained, primarily in Kansas and Nebraska.[9]

McChord also had large maintenance facilities for Air Technical Service Command during the war, serving served as a P-39 Aircobra modification center Apr 1944-May 1945 for lend-lease aircraft being sent to Russia via the Alaska Territory.[9]

Following the end of the war in Europe, McChord redeployed thousands of troops arriving from the European theater to the Pacific as part of Air Transport Command.[9]

Cold War

In 1945 McChord was designated as a permanent station by the Army Air Forces. It was assigned to Continental Air Forces in April 1945, becoming headquarters of the 1st and 2d Bomb Wings after their return from combat in Europe. In 1948, the field was re-designated McChord Air Force Base.[9]

Air Defense Command
see also: 25th Air Division
319th Fighter Squadron (All Weather) North American F-82F Twin Mustang 46-494 at McChord AFB, Washington, October 1949

On 1 August 1946, McChord was assigned to the new Air Defense Command, with a mission of air defense of the United States. During the Cold War, numerous fighter-interceptor squadrons were stationed at the base, as well as Radar and Command and Control organizations, the 25th Air Division being headquartered at McChord from 1951 until 1990.

The 325th Fighter Group (All-Weather) operated two squadrons of F-82F Twin Mustangs from McChord between 1948 and 1950, the first postwar fighter optimized for the air defense interceptor mission. Designed for very-long range bomber escort missions in the Pacific during World War II, the design became operational too late to see service and was adapted for the air defense mission.[9]

Other interceptor squadrons stationed at McChord were:

  • 64th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  • 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
  • 318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  • 465th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
  • 498th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

The base was the location of the first of twenty-eight stations built by ADC as part of the permanent air defense radar network, and was the top-priority site for ADC radars.[12][13] The 505th Aircraft Control and Warning Group, the first postwar general surveillance radar organization was activated at McChord on 21 May 1947. Defensive warning radars became operational at McChord on 1 June 1950 with World War II-era AN/CPS-4 and AN/CPS-5 radars being operated by the 635th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. ADC completed installation of two AN/CPS-6B medium-range search and height-finder radars in February 1951. Performance of these new radars was deemed inferior to the World War II vintage models and the calibration process delayed operational readiness at this and other sites. An AN/FPS-6 height-finder radar was installed in the mid 1950’s.[9]

In 1958, a Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Data Center (DC-12), and Combat Center (CC-3) was established at McChord. It became operational in 1960. The SAGE system was a network linking Air Force (and later FAA) General Surveillance Radar stations into a centralized center for Air Defense, intended to provide early warning and response for a Soviet nuclear attack. It was initially under the command of the Seattle Air Defense Sector (SeADS), activated on 8 January 1958.[9]

The ADC radar site (P-1) was deactivated 1 April 1960 and repositioned to Fort Lawton AFS (RP-1) where the Air Force consolidated its anti-aircraft radars with the United States Army Seattle Defense Area Army Air-Defense Command Post (AADCP) S-90DC for Nike missile operations.[9]

SeADS was inactivated on 1 April 1966 and the SAGE headquarters combat center came under the 25th Air Division. The Command Center (CC-3) was active until 30 June 1966 when it was inactivated as part of an ADC reorganization. The Data Center (DC-12), with its AN/FSQ-7 computer remained active until 4 August 1983 under the 25th AD when technology advances made the SAGE system obsolete.[9]

Today, the successor organization to the 25th AD, the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), is a major tenant organization at McChord, being one of two air defense sectors responsible for the security and integrity of continental United States air space. WADS is staffed by members of the Washington Air National Guard (WANG) and the Canadian Forces Air Command (AIRCOM). Operationally, WADS reports to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.[9]

Strategic Airlift

In 1947 Tactical Air Command moved the 62d Troop Carrier Group to McChord Field from Bergstrom Field, Texas. Headquarters Army Air Forces directed each Army Air Force have a tactical group assigned to establish a Wing headquarters. Thus, the 62nd Troop Carrier Wing (TCW), constituted on 28 July 1947, was activated at McChord Field on 15 August. The new Wing was assigned to Twelfth Air Force, with the 62d Troop Carrier Group becoming one of the Wing's subordinate units; its flying arm, being equipped with C-46 Commandos. In 1948, 62nd TCW assets were tapped to support the now famous Berlin Airlift. More than 100 men, primarily mechanics, aerial engineers, and truck drivers were identified for a 90-day temporary tour of duty in Europe, to bolster airlift resources.[9]

On 6 October 1949, the 62nd received its first four-engine Douglas C-54 Skymaster transport. By Thanksgiving of that same year, the Wing was equipped entirely with C-54s, and its designation was changed from 62nd Troop Carrier Wing (Medium), to (Heavy). On 1 June 1950, the Wing was inactivated due to budget reductions. However, as a result of the Korean War, on 17 September 1951, the Wing was once again activated at McChord AFB. Shortly thereafter, the Group and its three flying squadrons, the 4th, 7th, and 8th, again assigned to the Wing, returned to McChord. Not two years had passed, however, before the Wing was once again on the move. Now flying the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.[9]

During 1952 and 1953, the 62nd airlifted troops, blood plasma, aircraft parts, ammunition, medical supplies, and much more, to the Far East, in support of the war in Korea. In April 1954, the 62nd transported a replacement French garrison to Dien Bien Phu, French Indochina. Operation Bali Hai saw the Globemasters fly around the world in a period of 8 to 10 days. By 1955 the Cold War was well under way, and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) set out to build a chain of radar stations on the northernmost reaches of the continent. This chain of radars, known as the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, was to detect incoming Soviet missiles and bombers, and give the U.S forces enough warning to launch a counter attack, and get the National Command Authorities to safety. Between 1955 and 1957, the 62nd began to fly missions to the Alaskan arctic regions, carrying 13 million pounds of supplies and equipment to build the DEW Line. The resupply of the DEW Line stations kept the Wing occupied until 1969.[9]

The 62nd Troop Carrier Wing (Heavy) was reassigned to the Military Air Transport Service Continental Division on 1 July 1957 as TAC realigned its transport units. Meanwhile, the Air Force reorganized the structure of its wings, and the 62nd Troop Carrier Group, was inactivated 8 January 1960 when squadrons were assigned directly to the wing as part of the Air Force tri-deputate reorganization.[9]

During the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958, and subsequently through 1962 the 62d TCW supported scientific stations in the Arctic Ocean by airlanding and airdropping supplies on the drifting ice. It helped transport United Nations troops and supplies to the Congo in 1960. In 1963 the wing assumed responsibility for worldwide airlift of nuclear weapons and associated equipment, continuing this mission through early 1971. [9]

In 1968, McChord AFB was relieved of its assignment to the subsequently renamed Aerospace Defense Command and was reassigned to Military Airlift Command (MAC) as one of three MAC bases in the western United States operating the C-141 Starlifter. ADC, and later Tactical Air Command (TAC) continued to maintain a fighter alert detachment at McChord with F-106 Delta Dart and later F-15 Eagle aircraft.[9]

In 1975, TAC divested itself of its C-130 Hercules tactical airlift fleet, transferring all tactical airlift wings, groups and squadrons to MAC. For the 62 AW, this resulted in a significant increase in the wing's total mission capabilities beyond strictly strategic airlift with the arrival of the 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron (36 TAS) and their C-130E aircraft and personnel from Langley AFB, VA.[9]

In 1980, following the eruption of Mount St. Helens, a 36 TAS C-130 crew provided communications support during the search for survivors. One week after St Helen's first eruption, a second one occurred. All of the base's flyable aircraft were evacuated following reports that ash was drifting northwest toward McChord. In 1988 McChord became involved in combating devastating Yellowstone National Park forest fires, carrying troops from Fort Lewis to the fire areas.[9]

In 1991, Clark Air Base in the Philippines was evacuated due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. By June 16, the evacuation order was issued and the first plane load of evacuees arrived at McChord on the 18th. In 1992, with the disestablishment of Military Airlift Command, McChord became an Air Mobility Command base. In November of that same year, two McChord C-141 Starlifters, participating in an air refueling training mission over north central Montana, collided in mid-air, killing all 13 crewmen.[9]

Modern era

As the C-141 was phased out at McChord during the 1990s, it was replaced with the C-17 Globemaster III. McChord AFB and its 62 AW was the second AMC base to receive this aircraft for active duty, the first having been the 437th Airlift Wing (437 AW) at Charleston AFB, South Carolina.[9]

The McChord Field Historic District was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 12, 2008.[9]

Major commands to which assigned

  • Northwest Air District, c. March 25, 1940
  • GHQAF, United States Army Air Corps, June 7, 1940
  • Second Air Force, January 15, 1941
  • Fourth Air Force, January 26, 1942
  • Continental Air Forces, April 16, 1945
Redesignated: Strategic Air Command, March 21, 1946
Western Air Defense Force
Redesignated: Aerospace Defense Command, January 15, 1968


Major historical units

  • 19th Air Base Group, June 5, 1940 – June 4, 1941
  • 17th Bombardment Group, June 24, 1940 – June 29, 1941
  • 5th Bombardment Wing, October 19, 1940 – January 9, 1941
  • Northwest Air District, December 18, 1940 – January 6, 1941
  • 12th Bombardment Group, January 15, 1941 – February 18, 1942
  • 47th Bombardment Group, January 15 – August 14, 1941
  • 44th Air Base Group, January 15, 1941 – December 15, 1942
  • 42d Bombardment Group, January 20, 1942 – March 16, 1943
  • 55th Fighter Group, June 22, 1942 – August 23, 1943
  • 20th Altitude Training Unit, April 10, 1943 – March 31, 1944
  • 464th AAF Base Unit, April 1, 1944 – April 9, 1946
  • 491st Bombardment Group, July 17 – September 8, 1945
  • 1st Bombardment Wing, September 6 – November 7, 1945
  • 2d Bombardment Wing, September 6 – November 7, 1945
  • 314th AAF Base Unit, March 28, 1946 – August 16, 1947
  • 732d AAF Base Unit, October 21, 1946 – June 3, 1948
  • 454th Bombardment Group, April 27, 1947 – June 27, 1949
  • 456th Bombardment Group, June 12, 1947 – June 27, 1949
  • 305th Bombardment Wing, July 12, 1947 – June 27, 1949
  • 445th Bombardment Group, July 12, 1947 – June 27, 1949
  • 62d Troop Carrier Wing, August 15, 1947 – April 20, 1952
  • 505th AC&W (RADAR) Group, May 21, 1947 – September 26, 1949
  • 531st AC&W (RADAR) Group, June 21, 1948 – July 5, 1949
  • 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, November 28, 1948 – June 9, 1953
  • 302d Troop Carrier Wing, June 27, 1949 – June 8, 1951
  • 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, April 23, 1950 – August 15, 1957
  • 325th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, April 20, 1950 – February 6, 1952
  • 1705th Air Transport Wing, August 24, 1950 – October 1, 1951
  • 505th AC&W (RADAR) Group, June 25, 1951 – February 6, 1952
  • 25th Air Division, September 14, 1951 – September 30, 1990
  • 1705th Air Transport Group, January 24, 1952 – June 18, 1960
  • 567th Air Defense Group, 16 February 1953
Redesignated: 325th Fighter Group (Air Defense), 18 August 1955-25 March 1960
  • 4704th Defense Wing, February 1, 1952 – October 8, 1954
  • 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, August 18, 1955 – September 30, 1989
  • 325th Fighter Group (Air Defense), August 18, 1955 – October 18, 1956
Redesignated: 325th Fighter Wing (Air Defense), October 18, 1956 – July 1, 1968

[14][15] [16]

Madigan Healthcare System

JBLM Soldiers receive medical care through on-base Madigan Healthcare System facilities such as Madigan Army Medical Center, the Okubo Clinic, and the Nisqually Clinic. JBLM Airmen receive medical care at the McChord Clinic as well as Madigan Army Medical Center.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 15.9 square miles (41.2 km²), of which, 15.3 square miles (39.6 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²) of it is water. The total area is 3.78% water. The military base is, as previously stated, much larger than the CDP defined by the Census Bureau.

Fort Lewis' terrain is primarily a mixture of dense conifer woods and open Puget prairie-garry oak woodlands. Invasive Scotch Broom has taken over many areas. The landscape is very rocky from glacial meltwater deposits. Poison-oak is found in the training areas. Canada Thistle grows thickly in some areas. All trees are to be left standing; post policy prohibits cutting or trimming them.

The temperatures during summer vary from the mid 40s at night to the mid 70s during the day, occasionally peaking over 90 °F (32 °C). Although July and August are the driest months.


The census-designated place (CDP) Fort Lewis is located within the installation's area.[17] As of the 2000 census, the CDP, which includes the most densely populated part of the base, had a total population of 19,089.

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1980 23,761
1990 22,224 −6.5%
2000 19,089 −14.1%
Est. 2008 19,000 −0.5%

As of the census[18] of 2000, there are 19,089 people, 3,476 households, and 3,399 families residing on the base. The population density is 1,248.5 people per square mile (482.0/km²). There are 3,560 housing units at an average density of 232.8 per square mile (89.9/km²). The racial makeup of the base is 60.4% White, 20.3% African American, 1.4% Native American, 3.4% Asian, 1.8% Pacific Islander, 6.2% from other races, and 6.4% from two or more races. 13.1% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 3,476 households out of which 85.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 89.3% are married couples living together, 6.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 2.2% are non-families. 2.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 0.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 3.75 and the average family size is 3.78.

The age distribution is 32.1% under the age of 18, 28.0% from 18 to 24, 37.5% from 25 to 44, 2.0% from 45 to 64, and 0.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 22 years. For every 100 females there are 168.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 212.5 males. All these statistics are typical for military bases.

The median income for a household on the base is $32,384, and the median income for a family is $32,251. Males have a median income of $20,878 versus $20,086 for females. The per capita income for the base is $12,865. 8.2% of the population and 7.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 10.7% of those under the age of 18 and 0.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

See also

Base Realignment and Closure 2005 Department of Defense Joint Basing Program:


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for TCM (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective 8 April 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Joint Base Lewis-McChord website
  3. ^ The United States Army
  4. ^ a b c d e f Joint Base Lewis-McChord I Corps history
  5. ^ Northwest Guardian
  6. ^ a b c Gray Army Airfield
  7. ^ Fort Lewis History. Lewis Army Museum webpage. Joint Base Lewis-McChord official website. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  8. ^ Our History: McChord Air Museum. The McChord Air Museum Foundation official website. Retrieved 2011-08-19.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa McChord AFB Museum history section
  10. ^ William Caldwell McChord
  11. ^ Mueller, Robert, "Air Force Bases Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982", United States Air Force Historical Research Center, Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., 1989, ISBN 0-912799-53-6, page 391.
  12. ^ A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  13. ^ Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  14. ^ a b Mueller, Robert, "Air Force Bases Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982", United States Air Force Historical Research Center, Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., 1989, ISBN 0-912799-53-6, page 391.
  15. ^ A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  16. ^ Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
  17. ^ Map of Fort Lewis CDP vs. Fort Lewis Military Reservation U.S. Census Bureau
  18. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 

Further reading

External links

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