Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center
The Air National Guard Field Training Site, Gulfport, Mississippi, was established at the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport in 1954. Renamed the Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in 1990, military training actually began with the Army Air Corps in 1941. The ANG CRTC's mission is to provide an integrated, year-round, realistic training environment of supersonic airspace, gunnery ranges, systems, facilities and equipment for deployed units to enhance their capabilities and combat readiness. The CRTC fully supports the "Total Force" concept by supporting units from all branches of the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as the National Guard and Reserve components.
The Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) at Gulfport, MS hosts regular deployments of ANG units, and offers convenient offshore airspace that is fully instrumented (ACMI) for recording air to air engagements. Nearby Camp Shelby, MS features an air to ground range and sufficient low altitude MOA airspace to provide realistic ground attack scenarios.
All Airspace and ranges/drop zones are instrumented on the twenty-six million dollar Air Combat Training System (ACTS). This system provides advanced, realistic training and debriefing capability and combines sophisticated electronic threat and scoring systems as well.
The CRTC has approximately 160 full-time military and civilian employees with a sixty-five million dollar economic impact for FY99. The CRTC has bed space for approximately 1,000 personnel and can accommodate up to three separate flying units simultaneously. Flight line ramp space can support up to nine C-5s, twenty-two KC-135s or one hundred fighters.
An aggressive renovation and construction program is currently in progress. On-going construction projects include enhancing combat readiness training to increasing the quality of life. In FY99 alone: 8.3 million dollar a new main runway; upgrades to troop quarters; a state-of-the-art fire training facility; completion of additions to operations and maintenance capabilities; 24.6 million dollars spent on troop camp quarters II/III; a new dining facility; new aircraft hangar (capable of enclosing a C-17); and a state-of-the-art crash/fire rescue station is currently under construction; 12.8 million dollars is being spent of the relocation of Hewes Avenue; a new vehicle maintenance facility; renovations to Civil Engineering and the base supply warehouse; additionally, other support projects are funded and under design.
The CRTC enjoys a very supportive and proactive relationship with the local community. Community involvement includes participation in Chambers of Commerce, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves' (ESGR) programs, and Adopt-A-School and Mentoring programs. During emergencies, the CRTC is supportive of both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) operations.
The CRTC has two tenant Mississippi Air National Guard units on base. The 255th Air Control Squadron (ACS), activated in 1971 as a Combat Communications Squadron (CCS), was converted to a Control and Reporting Center (CRC) in 1987. They were the first Air National Guard unit to receive datalink capabilities for all joint forces. In 1998, the 255th was converted to their role of Air Control. ACTS provides state-of-the-art Ground Control Intercept (GCI) capability to the total force, as well as other very vital activities. The 255th ACS has 255 personnel and is combat ready in all areas. Their mission is to organize, train and equip personnel to provide an operational ready Control and Reporting Center in support of worldwide theater air operations and statewide emergency contingencies.
The other tenant is the 209th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES). The 209th CES was formed as the 173rd Civil Engineering Flight in 1969, and has grown over the years at its present manning of 90 personnel. The mission of the 209th CES is to provide a highly mobile emergency engineering force for base damage recovery after attack. This unit constantly trains and maintains a state of readiness to allow short notice deployment capability. This is accomplished through management of the Rapid Runway Repair (RRR) site and the fire training facility. Within the first year of opening, the new RRR site had trained 1,600 personnel, and over 1,400 personnel were scheduled for training in the year 2000. The 209th CES began augmenting the United States Air Force (USAF) "Silver Flag" Training Program at Tyndall AFB, FL in FY00.
While not considered a tenant of the CRTC, the 1108th Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD), Mississippi Army National Guard, is co-located at the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport. They are a full Army aviation maintenance depot facility.
The "Blue Lightning" Strike Force of the Drug Enforcement Agency is also located at the CRTC. "Blue Lightning's" mission is drug interdiction.
The Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport Authority, Air National Guard and Federal Aviation Administration jointly announced a major runway reconstruction project in May 1998. Runway 14-32 was completely rebuilt at a total cost of $8.1 million. This 9,000 foot runway was first constructed in 1942, and this project will assure the facility's important economic impact on the Coast, which now totals $490 million annually. The project, will be constructed in stages, and was completed by December 1998. According to Colonel Jim Bridges, Commander of the ANG Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, this runway project is essential to Air National Guard and reserve training missions. The Gulfport facility trains nearly 17,000 service men and women each year and has a $100 million economic impact on the Coast.
Since 1992, when casino gaming was legalized in Mississippi, the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport has realized a 350% increase in total passengers traveling through the Airport. Facility expansion will include a $10 million runway extension, expansion of military aviation facilities, an I-10 connector for faster access to Biloxi and development of a new general aviation area including a future north-south parallel runway