Williams Air Force Base (Williams AFB) is in Mesa, Maricopa County, Arizona, approximately 30 miles southeast of Phoenix and just east of Chandler. Williams AFB, constructed in 1941, operated primarily as a flight training school from 1942 until the base closed on September 30, 1993.
The former Williams Air Force Base played a strategic role in America's aviation history. Over a span of 52 years, more than 26,500 men and women earned their wings at Williams. Gearing up for the combat pilot demands of World War II, the Army Air Corps broke ground in Southeast Mesa, Ariz. for its Advanced Flying School on July 16, 1941. In February 1942, the growing military base's name was changed to Williams Field to honor Charles Linton Williams, an Arizona-born pilot. The facility was redesignated as Williams Air Force Base (WAFB) in January 1948. WAFB was the U.S. Air Force's foremost pilot training facility, graduating more student pilots and instructors than any other base in the country and supplying 25 percent of the Air Force's pilots annually. WAFB provided training for a variety of fighter and bomber aircraft including the AT-9, AT-17, P-38, AT-6, B-17, B-24, P-51, P-47, F-86, F-100, T-33, T-37 and T-38.
WAFB was closed in 1993 and created a loss of more than 3,800 jobs and $300 million in annual economic activity. The state and communities began work immediately to redevelop the base after the announcement of closure in 1991. Upon closing, Williams AFB was transferred to the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA). AFBCA assumed responsibilities for the restoration and reuse of the base and worked with the Restoration Advisory Board and Williams redevelopment partnership to maximize reuse. On February 17, 1995, the Air Force signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Disposal and Reuse of Williams AFB. The decision in this ROD is to dispose of the aviation-related portion of Williams AFB in a manner that will enable the development of a regional airport with the capacity for expanding commercial and industrial development.
The Department of Defense is retaining 10.74 acres for the U.S. Army Reserves, and 8 acres of the U.S. Air Force for continued military use. DOD recommended changing the 1991 BRAC vote to move the base's Armstrong Laboratory Aircrew Training Research Facility to Orlando, Fla. The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission agreed, and the lab will remain at Williams.
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