Elmendorf is the largest military installation in Alaska. Its 13,130 square acres are occupied by more than 800 buildings, two runways and more than 150 miles of roads.
More than 6,000 military personnel from all branches of the U.S. and Canadian armed forces are assigned to Elmendorf. The military population, including family members, is more than 10,000. With civilian workers, retirees and their families, the number of people associated with Elmendorf rises nearly 25,000. Just under a third of the military people live in Elmendorf's 1,644 family housing units and dormitories, while the other families reside off base.
The Anchorage School District operates three elementary schools and a special education center for on-base residents.
Elmendorf's annual payroll, paid to military and civilian employees, is more than $316 million. In addition, the Air Force spends about $70 million for construction and service contracts, and other expenditures in the local economy. The base's total economic impact on the Anchorage vicinity is nearly $500 million a year.
Elmendorf Air Force Base got its start on June 8, 1940, when 25 local men began clearing brush near Whitney Station, just north of Anchorage.
The first permanent garrison, an Army infantry regiment, arrived soon after work began on the new airfield. It wasn't until Aug. 12, 1940, that the first Air Corps contingent arrived: Maj. Everett Davis and two enlisted men.
The installation was designated Fort Richardson and the airfield itself Elmendorf Field, Nov. 12, 1940. Construction continued through the winter and by January 1941, a 7,500-foot runway had been completed and three hangars were under construction. The airfield's first aircraft, the P-36 assigned to the 18th Pursuit Squadron, arrived the following month in crates.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, resulted in a feverish rush to bolster the Alaskan forces which then consisted of six outdated medium bombers and a dozen obsolete pursuit planes. By February 1942, the force had swelled to over 3,000 men. This resulted in the Alaskan Air Force being redesignated the 11th Air Force on Feb. 5, 1942.
In an attempt to extend their front line from Midway Island to the Aleutian Island chain, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and landed on Kiska and Attu in the western Aleutians, June 6, 1942. The United States' campaign to retake the Aleutians began then and continued until August 1943. Elmendorf Field played a vital role as the primary logistics center and staging area for the air war in this hard-fought campaign, which was conducted under some of the worst weather conditions of the war.
Just before the end of the war, Headquarters, 11th Air Force moved from Elmendorf to Adak where it stayed for the remainder of the war.
When World War II ended, the 11th Air Force was redesignated the Alaskan Air Command and returned to Elmendorf in October 1946.
In the years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Elmendorf became increasingly important to the defense of the northwest corner of North America. Aleutian bases were inactivated and nearly all operations moved to Elmendorf. Massive construction projects began to replace the temporary World War II facilities with more permanent ones and the base saw a modernization of aircraft from the P-51 Mustang, to F-80s, F-94s and F-89s.
It was during this period of modernization that Elmendorf Field became Elmendorf Air Force Base. In March 1951, the Army relocated its garrison to the new Fort Richardson, adjacent to the old post, and transferred the older facilities to the Air Force.
During this same period, a vast network of radar and communications sites was constructed throughout the state. The Alaska NORAD Control Center, located at Elmendorf, served as the nerve center for all air defense operations in the state. The air defense forces in Alaska reached an all time high in 1957 with nearly 200 fighter planes assigned to eight squadrons.
Due to changes in the nature of the threat caused by the Soviet's development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, a reduction in Alaskan air defenses began in the late 1950s.
By 1960, Elmendorf had only one fighter squadron, the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. Equipped with F- 102s, and augmented by Air Defense Command F-106s on rotational alert from the lower 48 states, the 317th provided air defense for all of Alaska.
Elmendorf's return to prominence began in 1966, with the activation of the 21st Composite Wing, which became the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing in 1979.
In August 1990, as a result of a strategic realignment of Pacific forces, the Alaskan Air Command returned to its roots, being redesignated the 11th Air Force. At the same time, Elmendorf became a Pacific Air Forces base.
In May 1991, the 90th Fighter Squadron arrived at Elmendorf from the Philippines. The squadron is outfitted with F-15E "Strike" Eagles, the Air Force's front-line fighter.
In keeping with the Air Force restructuring, the 21st TFW reorganized to the 21st Wing in September 1991. On Dec. 19, 1991, the 3rd Wing replaced the 21st as the host unit for Elmendorf when the 21st was inactivated and the 3rd moved to Elmendorf from Clark Air Base, the Philippines.
In April 1992, the 517th Airlift Squadron, with its C-130Hs and C-12Fs, joined the 3rd Wing. The 962nd AACS joined the wing in October 1992.
With two squadrons of F-15C/Ds, one squadron each of F-15Es, C-130Hs/C-12s and E-3Bs, the 3rd Wing continues to be responsible for Alaska's air defense and support of Pacific Air Forces.
From its beginnings in 1940 to today, Elmendorf has grown from an isolated outpost in a distant U.S. territory to one of the most prominent and active Air Force bases in the United States.
The 3rd Wing is the host unit for Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. It is the largest and principal organization in Eleventh Air Force.
The wing trains and equips an Air Expeditionary Force lead wing comprised of 6,700 personnel and
F-15C, F-15E, E-3, C-130, and C-12 aircraft. The 3rd Wing also provides air superiority, surveillance, tactical airlift, and agile combat support forces for global deployment, while maintaining the installation for critical force-staging and throughput operations in support of worldwide contingencies. The wing also provides medical care for all forces in Alaska.
Operating just across the Bering Strait ¾ a mere 44 miles from the former Soviet Union ¾ the 3rd Wing provides air superiority and defense for Alaska with F-15C aircraft. The wing supports the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region mission and flexible alert concept by deploying aircraft and crews to Galena and King Salmon airports periodically. These forward operating bases allow the
F-15s a quicker response time on identifying aircraft approaching North American airspace. At Elmendorf, the aircraft stand alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In addition, the 3rd Wing supports Pacific Air Forces in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. This mission includes the wing's F-15E "Strike" Eagle aircraft, which fly long-range interdiction.
With its C-130H Hercules and C-12 aircraft, the wing also provides airlift in support of two major missions: airborne training for the Army's 6th Infantry Division (Light) and airlift support for Eleventh Air Force, including logistical support, fighter deployment support, resupply of remote long-range radar sites and special assignment airlift missions for Alaskan and Canadian Distant Early Warning stations.
The major operational components of the wing include three fighter squadrons, the 12th "Dirty Dozen," 19th "Gamecocks," and the 90th "Pair-o-Dice;" one airlift squadron, the 517th "Firebirds;" and one airborne air control squadron, the 962nd. The fighter units are trained to actively engage and destroy enemy air forces in either an offensive or defensive capacity.
The newest fighter squadron is the 12th, which came to Elmendorf from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in April 2000. The 90th joined the wing in May 1991, along with the 517th Airlift Squadron in April 1992, and the 962nd AACS in October 1992.
The 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Elmendorf from Clark Air Base December 19, 1991. In the move, the 3rd was redesignated the 3rd Wing, an objective wing in which group commanders are responsible for specific functional missions.
The 3rd Operations Group is primarily responsible for the flying mission of the wing. It includes the 12th, 19th, and 90th Fighter Squadrons, 517th Airlift Squadron, 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron, an operations support squadron and a standardization and evaluation component.
The 3rd Maintenance Group provides direct support to the flying mission through the maintenance, supply, transportation, contracting and logistics support squadrons.
The 3rd Mission Support Group provides a variety of support functions to the 3rd Wing, plus more than 25 associate units and civilian agencies throughout the state. Within the group are the mission support, security police, services, communications, comptroller and civil engineer squadrons.
The 3rd Medical Group is the first medical center to be organized as an objective hospital. In addition to the care they provide in house, they also serve aeromedical evacuation patients and are responsible for the wartime manning and deployment of two air transportable hospitals. The group consists of aerospace medicine, dental, medical support, and medical operations squadrons.