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Fort Wainwright

Fort Wainwright is located in Alaska's Interior region adjacent to Fairbanks. The major unit at Fort Wainwright today is the 1st Brigade, 6th Infantry Division (Light). At Fort Wainwright, arctic soldiers work and train in temperatures ranging from 80 degrees F in the summer to minus 50 degrees F in the winter.

Population of assigned-served: Active Duty Officer 537 Active Duty Enlisted 4220 Family Members 5282 Retirees 662 Civilian Employees 1513 Total Reserve Component 108.

From a small cold-weather test station to one of the Army's largest training areas, Fort Wainwright has come a long way since its humble start. The post has seen numerous face lifts, a branch change, a new name and thousands of soldiers, family members and civilian workers. Political and military leaders advocated building bases in Alaska for several years prior to World War II. Finally, when war threatened in 1939, Congress granted $4 million to construct an Army Air Corps cold weather experimental station at Fairbanks.

The Air Corps purchased two homesteads near Fairbanks where they would build the base. Constrcution began in the summer of 1939, but it was not an easy project. Little was known then about building on permafrost, and problems cropped up almost immediately. In addition to the airstrip, housing and office space, workers also had to build a rail spur into Fairbanks to transport equipment and supplies. Richard E. Denver, a local laborer, was hired to help build the new base.

"They decided to build the railroad first," he said. "They used dynamite to blast out huge chunks of permafrost and pushed it up into a big heap to build the road bed on. When spring came, the road bed looked like a big batch of chocolate ice cream because the permafrost had melted, and the rails were twisted in all directions."

Repairs were made and the men learned from the experience. They began using steam to thaw the permafrost before building the airfield, as recommended by old miners in the area. As work on the new base continued, troops in the Lower 48 prepared to deploy to their new station in Alaska. The first Air Corps detachment assigned to Alaska arrived in Fairbanks in April 1940, with their base commander, Maj. Dale Gaffney. Another 118 soldiers joined them in October. They lived in temporary shelters until the permanent barracks were constructed.

The new base was called Ladd Field, in honor of Maj. Arthur K. Ladd, an Air Corps pilot killed in a plane crash in South Carolina in 1935. The men stationed here tested clothing and equipment during the bitter cold winters until World War II. Ladd Field then took on a bigger role. With the outbreak of war with Japan in late 1941, Ladd Field became a critical link in the Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease route. From 1942 through 1945, American crews delivered almost 8,000 aircraft to Soviet aircrews for their war effort. U.S. pilots flew the planes from Great Falls, Mont., through Canada to Fairbanks, following the Northwest Staging Route. The planes were transferred to the Russians at Ladd Field, then flown to Siberia via Galena and Nome where they were eventually used in the Soviet war effort against Germany. The first aircraft left Ladd Field in September 1942 and the last in September 1945.

Alaska became home to the first U.S. unified command in 1947, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Alaskan Command. This opened the way for the Army, Navy and Air Force elements in Alaska to work together toward successful completion of their missions. Each branch reported to its respective headquarters in Washington, D.C. Although ALCOM was in overall control, Army elements also fell under a subordinate command, U.S. Army Alaska.

By the 1950s, military personnel in Alaska settled into a peacetime training routine with troops from all over the Lower 48 and Canada participating in large-scale winter exercises, while at the same time remaining vigilant against the Cold War threat of Soviet aggression.

The 9th Infantry returned to Alaska in 1956, charged with the mission of defense of the Fairbanks area. With a battalion stationed here until 1995, the "Manchus" of the 9th Infantry were deeply embedded in the rich history of the state. It was an element of the 9th Infantry that raised the first American flag over Alaskan soil on the transfer of the territory from Russia to the U.S. in 1867.

The Army assumed control of Ladd Air Force Base in January 1961. The Army renamed the post Fort Jonathan M. Wainwright after the general who, with his men, valiantly defended the Bataan Peninsula during the first few months of World War II. Since then Fort Wainwright has been home to several units, including the 171st Infantry Brigade (Mechanized); a Nike-Hercules battalion; the 172nd Infantry Brigade and the 6th Infantry Division (Light). The 6th ID (L) was inactivated in July 1994 and replaced by the U. S. Army, Alaska, with headquarters moving to Fort Richardson.

Soldiers stationed here throughout the years have deployed to Vietnam, the Sinai, Saudi Arabia and, more recently, Haiti and Bosnia, on real-world missions. They have also participated in exercises throughout the Lower 48, as well as Guam, Cambodia, Thailand, Korea, Japan, the Phillipines, Mongolia and Australia.

In 1967 Fort Wainwright soldiers aided the community with manpower and equipment to help evacuate their civilian neighbors during the Chena River flood. They, with their families, have volunteered their services and skills at churches, schools and civic organizations. They have worked side-by-side with the people of Fairbanks to solve problems and to celebrate good times. In 1996, Fort Wainwright was honored with the Green Star Award for environmental stewardship in the Fairbanks area.

The 50-man detachment of the 1940s has grown into today's nearly 4,600 soldiers and 6,100 family members who call Fort Wainwright home today. The major unit at Fort Wainwright now is the 172nd Infantry Brigade (Separate). Subordinate commands of the 172nd include the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry; 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry; 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery; and the 172nd Support Battalion.

The Arctic Support Command, headquartered at Fort Wainwright, also has units at Fort Richardson, including elements of Special Troops Battalion; 4th Battalion, 123rd Theater Aviation; 203rd Personnel Service Battalion; 267th Finance Support Battalion; 98th Direct Support Maintenance Company; and Law Enforcement Command.

Fort Wainwright is home to Medical Activity-Alaska and Dental Activity-Alaska and to Bassett Army Community Hospital, named for Capt. John Bassett, a doctor killed while trying to evacuate wounded soldiers during the Battle of Attu during World War II.

The climate in the Interior is characterized by temperatures ranging from 65 degrees below zero in the winter to 90 degrees in the summer. The terrain, climate, and over 870,000 acres of available training land make Fort Wainwright an ideal location for conducting training from the squad through joint task force level.

BRAC 2005

DoD Recommendation: Realign Fort Wainwright, AK, by relocating the Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) headquarters from Fort Wainwright, AK, to Fort Greely, AK.

DoD Justification: This recommendation would relocate CRTC headquarters to Fort Greely to improve efficiency of operations and enhance personnel safety. Sufficient capacity exists at Fort Greely. There would be no impact on Force Structure. DoD's recommendation would relocate headquarters closer to the CRTC's test mission execution on the Bolio Lake Range Complex. This complex, although realigned under Fort Wainwright in BRAC 95, is only 10 miles south of Fort Greely but 100 miles from Fort Wainwright's cantonment area. DoD estimated that this action would enhance interoperability and reduce costs by permitting personnel to live closer to their primary work site, thus, avoiding a 200 mile round trip between quarters and work sites. It also estimates that it would decrease the risks associated with the required year-round travel in extreme weather conditions. Results in more efficient and cost effective monitoring & control of arctic testing of transformational systems. This recommendation did not consider other locations since the CRTC headquarters only manages testing at one site.

Community Concerns: There were no formal expressions from the community.

Commission Findings: The Commission found that this recommendation would reverse a 1995 BRAC decision realigning Fort Greely by placing the CRTC headquarters at Fort Wainwright. The original proposal essentially mothballed Fort Greely and moved two major activities, the Northern Warfare Training Center and the Cold Regions Test Activity (now the Cold Region Test Center), off the installation.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found the Secretary's recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and force structure plan. Therefore, the Commission approved the recommendation of the Secretary.

DoD Estimated Payback: The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $0.05M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department of Defense during the implementation period would be a saving of $0.2M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation are $0.05M with a payback would be expected in 2 years. DoD estimates the net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years to be a savings of $0.7M.

DoD Estimated Economic Impact on Communities: DoD estimated that this recommendation would not result in any job reductions (direct or indirect) over the 2006-2011 period in the Fairbanks metropolitan area since Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely are in the same metropolitan area. The aggregate economic impact of all recommended actions on this economic region of influence was considered and is at Appendix B of Volume I of DoD's BRAC recommendations.

DoD Community Infrastructure Assessment: DoD estimated that the local area infrastructure would be sufficient to support this recommendation. A DoD review of community attributes (Child Care, Cost of Living, Education, Employment, Housing, Medical Health, Population Center, Safety, Transportation, and Utilities) revealed no significant issues regarding the ability of the local community's infrastructure to support forces, missions, and personnel. Fort Greely is in the same MSA and MHA as Fort Wainwright; therefore, the Army uses the same information for Local Area for both installations. DoD estimated that there would be no known community infrastructure impediments to implementation of all recommendations affecting the installations in this recommendation.

DoD Environmental Impact Assessment: This recommendation would have no impact on air quality; cultural, archeological, or tribal resources; dredging; noise; threatened and endangered species or critical habitat; waste management; water resources; or wetlands. This recommendation would not impact the costs of environmental restoration, waste management, and environmental compliance activities. The aggregate environmental impact of all recommended BRAC actions affecting the installations in this recommendation has been reviewed by DoD. DoD concluded that there would be no known environmental impediments to implementation of this recommendation.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:48:23 ZULU