Barksdale Air Force Base is headquarters for the 2d Bomb Wing, Eighth Air Force and 917th Wing. The 2d Bomb Wing provides global combat capability and trains all B-52 combat crews. Barksdale AFB is located in Bossier Parish, in the northwest corner of Louisiana just 18 miles East of the Texas border and 70 miles South of Arkansas. Interstate 20 goes right by the base, and Interstate 49 ends 8 miles from the base, near Bossier City. Named after aviation pioneer Lt. E. Hoy Barksdale, the 22,000-acre base once was the world's largest airfield. Barksdale AFB is noteworthy in aviation history for its pioneering efforts in all forms of military transport and flight. It housed many different bombardment groups, Air Force divisions and flight schools. The base rose to prominence during the Cold War, becoming a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. The resident and employee population at Barksdale AFB totals nearly 9800 individuals. There are also over 15,000 military family members living on and off base and an estimated 60,000 retirees and their family members.
Beginning in 1931 construction of the airfield introduced dramatic and significant changes to the cotton plantation area. It took about 150 men and 350 mules to grade and build its landing field, plowing under 1,400 acres of cotton land. The 1940s at Barksdale saw the training of bomber crews insteadof the pursuit and fighter crews as in the previous decade. Barksdale Field was named Barksdale Air Force Base in 1948. During 1949, Barksdale was the home of the first Air Force all-jetstrategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 "Tornado"and home to the 2nd Air Force headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command. The Boeing B-47 "Straojet" and Boeing KC-97 "Stratofreighter"also were assigned here during the mid-50s.
In March 1958 the first of the Boeing B-52 "Stratofortresses"and Boeing KC-135 "Stratotankers" were assigned. The World War I - famous 2nd Bomb Wing transferred to Barksdale on April 1, 1963, from Hunter Field, Ga. From 1965 and into the 1970s, the 2nd Bomb Wing prepared for the day when they would deploy to Southeast Asia for "Arc Light" and "Young Tiger" missions. From 1972 through 1973 almost all of the wing's resources were deployed overseas for operations over Vietnam. All aircraft and crews returned in January and October of 1973.
A dispersal program by 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB included deployment of Detachment 2 to Amarillo Air Terminal (formerly Amarillo AFB) and Detachment 3 to Clinton-Sherman Industrial Air Park (formerly Clinton-Sherman AFB). Both detachments were active from around 1969 until 30 March 1975 when they were inactivated.
Eight B-52 aircraft and more than 70 people deployed to RAF Fairford, England in support of NATO operations to end the crisis in Kosovo. While deployed to RAF Fairford, the B-52s and B-1s flew more than 270 combat sorties, releasing more than 11,000 weapons in more than 2,000 flight hours since March 24, 1999.
The headquarters 8th Air Force building was damaged by a fire of unknown origins in the early morning March 12, 2002. Barksdale and Bossier City firefighters and emergency services teams responded to the fire. The first members of the Barksdale response team arrived on scene shortly after 2:30 a.m. and were joined later by the Bossier City Fire Department. Almost 70 people battled the fire until about 1:30 p.m., when base officials determined it was contained.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Eielson Air Force Base, AK. Some of the 354th Fighter Wing's assigned A-10 aircraft (located at Eielson AFB) would be distributed to the 917th Wing Barksdale Air Force Base (three aircraft). This recommendation was made because, although a base with high military value, Eielson was an expensive base to maintain.
In another Recommendation, DoD recommended to realign NAS New Orleans ARS, LA. It would distribute the 926th Fighter Wing's A-10 aircraft to the 442d Fighter Wing (AFR), Whiteman AFB, MO (nine aircraft), and the 917th Wing (AFR) at Barksdale AFB (six aircraft). Both Whiteman (28) and Barksdale (33) bases had a higher military value for the A-10 operational mission than New Orleans (49). These realignments would bring the units at Whiteman and Barksdale to optimal size. Additionally, the Barksdale A-10 unit would provide close air support to the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center, one of the nation's premier joint training opportunities. Finally, realigning these A-10s to reserve units would helpe keep the active/Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve force structure mix constant.
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