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NAS JRB Willow Grove

The mission of NAS Willow Grove was to provide, train and maintain a ready reserve force. In 1994 the base was redesignated a Joint Reserve Base to more accurately reflect our status. In addition to the Navy, the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Pa National Guard reside here.

The air station is located on Route 611 in Horsham Township, Montgomery County, approximately 20 miles north of Philadelphia. The main gate of NAS Willow Grove fronts Route 611, which runs south four miles to the Pa turnpike. Just south of the turnpike is the town of Willow Grove with its prestigious shopping centers. Route 611 merges into Broad street, which runs directly south through Philadelphia to the Delaware River. Running north, route 611 goes through the attractive Bucks county seat of Doylestown.

NAS Willow Grove supports a variety of reserve component units of each of the services. It is one of a number of reserve installations (e.g. NAF Atlanta/Dobbins AFB, NAS New Orleans, NAS JRB Fort Worth) whose operational limitations are caused and also offset by their proximity to large population centers. Primary Navy operational tenant of NAS Willow Grove is patrol squadron VP-66. Other tenants at the installation include the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and one Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron.

Recent DoD discussions about encroachment have noted that NAS Willow Grove cannot be "fit into" current AICUZ planning templates. Existing encroachment at the east end of the installation precludes initiating effective land controls. However, the west end of the field is relatively free from encroachment, and offers opportunities for DoD and the affected local jurisdictions to undertake an effective partnership to safeguard the field's operating flexibility and future availability.

In 1926, when many people were afraid of airplanes and most considered flying a daredevil sport, aviation pioneer Harold F. Pitcairn bought a large section of farmland north of Philadelphia. That farmland today is Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

From 1926 to 1942, Pitcairn developed, built, tested and flew many different aircraft -- most notably the Mailwing and Autogiro. During his lifetime, Harold Pitcairn and his associates pursued a dream of developing "The Safe Aircraft." Their vision and innovation have had a profound and lasting impact on American aviation. Harold Pitcairn was the 14th recipient of the highest award in American aviation, the Collier Trophy, which was awarded by President Herbert Hoover. Three Pitcairn aircraft are on display in the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. His achievements were recently recognized by his induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

In 1927, when Pitcairn won the U.S. Postal Service contract to carry the overnight mail between New York and Atlanta, he designed the Mailwing. Faster, safer, and more efficient than any other aircraft on the market, the Mailwing was immediately bought as standard equipment by many other airlines. Pilots loved the aircraft because of its reliability and ease of handling. When crashes did occur, pilots were often able to walk away with minor injuries due to the Mailwing's rugged construction.

A series of tragic accidents, coupled with changes in government regulations, induced Pitcairn to sell his fledgling air mail business to Eastern Air Transport -- which would eventually become Eastern Airlines. Although the durable Mailwings would continue to carry the mail for several more years, the era of the single-engine, open-cockpit, mail-only plane would soon end.

Pitcairn had previously experimented with rotary-wing aircraft designs, and now began to focus his attention on rotary-wing development. Several years earlier, Spanish aristocrat and inventor Juan de la Cierva solved the aerodynamic problems which had doomed previous rotary-wing designs. Cierva called his crude invention the "Autogiro." In 1929, Pitcairn formed a business partnership with Cierva to develop Autogiro technology in the United States. That same year, Pitcairn made the first successful rotary-wing flight in America in the skies over Willow Grove Field in an Autogiro.

Throughout the 1930s, the Pitcairn team would develop and manufacture many different models of Autogiros at Willow Grove, perfecting the technology which would later be used in the development of the modern helicopter.

In 1942, for patriotic reasons, Pitcairn reluctantly sold his air field to the United States Navy to support the war effort. Two hundred fifty Naval personnel from Mustin Field at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard took possession of the field that year. In January 1943, the field was officially commissioned the United States Naval Air Station Willow Grove.

Following World War II, NAS Willow Grove was designated a Naval Air Reserve Training Station. Training and operation support activities increased during the Korean War. In 1957, the Navy purchased additional land, bringing the air station to its present total of 1,100 acres. Later, the Vietnam conflict and Gulf War would also significantly increase air station operations. All three conflicts saw many Willow Grove Reservists recalled to support both flight and ground missions.

In 1994, the air station's name was again changed to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) Willow Grove, to more accurately depict the joint composition and mission of the Reservists serving here. Today, NAS JRB Willow Grove's runway is shared by Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Army Reservists, as well as the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. Because our Naval Reservists now train with the latest warfare technologies, they are tasked with missions and operate in direct support of their active duty fleet counterparts to meet any national contingency.

As of August 2004, NAS JRB Willow Grove was one of only Five locations in the Department of Defense to operate the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) air radar. The STARS radar allows the facility to simulate air traffic for training purposes. With built-in software, the digital STARS allows controllers the ability to simulate any number of inbound and outbound air traffic, and the target simulators perform with the same type of climb, descent and turn rates, with approach speeds of the actual type of aircraft it is simulating. This simulator has the ability to run a 200-aircraft training scenario with any type of military or civilian aircraft. The other facilities operating such a system were four other locations: NAVSTA Rota, Spain, in Norfolk, Va., Camp Pendelton, Calif., and Patuxent River, Md.

BRAC 2005

Secretary of Defense Recommendations: DoD recommended to close Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, PA. This recommendation would relocate the following units from Willow Grove: all Navy and Marine Corps squadrons, their aircraft and necessary personnel, equipment and support to McGuire Air Force Base, Cookstown, NJ; the minimum amount of manpower and equipment to support intermediate maintenance workload and capacity for Tire and Wheel, non-destruction inspections, and Aviation Life Support System equipment to McGuire AFB; Willow Grove's intermediate maintenance workload and capacity for Aircraft Components, Aircraft Engines, Fabrication & Manufacturing, and Support Equipment to Fleet Readiness Center East, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC; Armed Forces Reserve Center Expeditionary Combat Support manpower to Eglin Air Force Base, FL; Both Co A/228th Aviation and Reserve Intelligence Area 16 to Fort Dix, Trenton, NJ. DoD also recommended to deactivate the 111th Fighter Wing (Air National Guard) and relocate its assigned A-10 aircraft to the 124th Wing (ANG), Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Boise, ID (three primary aircraft); 175th Wing (ANG), Martin State Airport Air Guard Station, Baltimore, MD, (three primary aircraft); 127th Wing (ANG), Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mount Clemens, MI (three primary aircraft) and retire the remaining aircraft (six primary aircraft).

Although Willow Grove would be closed, an enclave would be established for the Army Reserve units remaining on or relocating to Willow Grove and the Air National Guard 270th Engineering Installation Squadron. In addition, DoD recommended to realign Cambria Regional Airport, Johnstown, PA, by relocating Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 Detachment A, to include all required personnel, equipment, and support, to McGuire Air Force Base.

Secretary of Defense Justifications: This recommendation will reduce excess capacity while creating new joint opportunities in the McGuire Air Force Base/Fort Dix/Naval Aviation Engineering Station Lakehurst military concentration area. This recommendation leverages maintenance and operational efficiencies within Marine Corps Reserve Aviation and maintains reserve forces in areas with favorable demographics. Inclusion of the realignment of Cambria Regional Airport in this recommendation allows the assets currently housed there to be collocated with their headquarters at McGuire Air Force Base. The major intermediate maintenance functions are consolidated into a Fleet Readiness Center, which reduces the number of maintenance levels and streamlines the way maintenance is accomplished with associated significant cost reductions.

This recommendation would reduce excess capacity while creating new joint opportunities in the McGuire Air Force Base/Fort Dix/Naval Aviation Engineering Station Lakehurst military concentration area. This recommendation would leverage maintenance and operational efficiencies within Marine Corps Reserve Aviation and would maintain reserve forces in areas with favorable demographics. Inclusion of the realignment of Cambria Regional Airport in this recommendation would allow the assets currently housed there to be collocated with their headquarters at McGuire Air Force Base. The major intermediate maintenance functions would be consolidated into a Fleet Readiness Center, which would reduce the number of maintenance levels and streamline the way maintenance is accomplished with significant cost reductions.

This recommendation would enable Air Force Future Total Force transformation by consolidating the A-10 fleet at installations of higher military value, and would contribute to the Army's establishment of the Northeast Army Reserve Regional Readiness Command. The USAF KC-135E model aircraft (16 primary aircraft authorized) at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, would retire. The capacity created by the Air Force force structure retirement of KC-135Es (16 primary aircraft authorized) from McGuire Air Force Base would enable the execution of this recommendation.

The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $126.3M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $134.7M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $60.6M with a payback expected in two years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $710.5M. Assuming no economic recovery, DoD estimated that this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 1,805 jobs (1,142 direct, 663 indirect) over the 2006- 2011 period in the Philadelphia, PA Metropolitan Division, which would be 0.08 percent of economic area employment. This recommendation indicated impacts of costs at the installations involved, which reported $2.5M in costs for waste management and environmental compliance(included in cost calculation). Willow Grove reported $10.3M in environmental restoration costs, which DoD would have a legal obligation to perform environmental restoration regardless of the base's final status (this value not included in cost calculation).

DoD also recommended to establish an enclave (mentioned previously) at Willow Grove JRB to retain essential facilities to support activities of the Reserve Components. This recommendation was made in conjunction with its recommendation to close the Reese United States Army Reserve Center in Chester, PA, the United States Army Reserve Organizational Maintenance Shop in Chester, PA, the Germantown Veterans Memorial United States Army Reserve Center in Philadelphia, PA, the Horsham Memorial United States Army Reserve Center in Horsham, PA, the 1LT Ray S. Musselman Memorial United States Army Reserve Center in Norristown, PA, and the North Penn memorial United States Army Reserve Center in Norristown, PA. These units would relocate to a new Armed Forces Reserve Center with an organizational maintenance facility at Willow Grove.

The USAF KC-135E model aircraft (16 primary aircraft authorized) at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, retire. The capacity created by the Air Force force structure retirement of KC-135Es (16 primary aircraft authorized) from McGuire Air Force Base enables the execution of this recommendation.

Community Concerns: The Willow Grove community argued the recommendation to close Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB), the associated deactivation of the 111th Fighter Wing (Pennsylvania Air National Guard), and the removal of the 913th Airlift Wing (AFRES) substantially deviated from the established final selection criteria and was based on flawed analyses. The substantial deviations cited by the community include: erroneous assumptions and lack of analysis in assessing jointness, substantial miscalculations in the assessment of the availability of land, facilities, and associated airspaces, lack of consideration of the base's strategic location with respect to homeland defense and homeland security, substantial deviations and inconsistencies in the evaluation process; improper deactivation of an Air National Guard Wing; inadequate consideration of demographics, manpower, and skill-set losses; and inadequate consideration of future mission capabilities.

Numerous formatted letters and petitions have been received citing the installation as a model of joint use base facilities whose strengths include: working joint operations, including all services except the Coast Guard, critical strategic location near Northeast Corridor major metropolitan and port areas, vital part of homeland defense and security for the East Coast, huge economic impact to their local region, an 8,000 foot runway, modern Digital Radar Air Control System-one of only four in the US-available for emergency preparedness and operations, and strong community support. Advocates repeatedly raised the question: "Why close a joint base in light of the stated DoD objective of moving to jointness?"

The announced loss of jobs will have a negative economic impact on the area.

Commission Findings: The Commission found that the majority of community concerns as they pertained to the 111th Fighter Wing (Air National Guard) had merit. Moreover, the Commission notes that the 913th Airlift Wing (AFRES) was not included in the recommendation by the Department. As best could be determined, the Navy had forwarded their proposal to Air Force for their review, and the Air Force recommended action addressed only the Air National Guard unit.

The Commission also found, however, that the Navy recommendation to close NAS/JRB Willow Grove was analytically sound for the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve assets assigned there and at Cambria. The movement and consolidation at the new Joint Base located at McGuire/Fort Dix/Lakehurst makes efficient use of a larger joint military establishment while ameliorating many of the demographic effects of moving reserve units. The Commission therefore determined that the majority of NAS/JRB Willow Grove could be closed, while also retaining an enclave for the 111th Fighter Wing and the 913th Airlift Wing. The Commission encourages the Department of Defense to not retire service--capable A-10 aircraft. The Commission notes the quality and contributions of the 111th Fighter Wing and encourages the Department of Defense to consider identifying A-10 aircraft to form an A-10 wing or detachment using the 111th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard located at Willow Grove, PA.

Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:

Close Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, PA. Relocate all Navy and Marine Corps squadrons, their aircraft and necessary personnel, equipment and support to McGuire Air Force Base, Cookstown, NJ. Relocate the minimum amount of manpower and equipment to support intermediate maintenance workload and capacity for Tire and Wheel, nondestruction inspections, and Aviation Life Support System equipment to McGuire Air Force Base. Relocate intermediate maintenance workload and capacity for Aircraft Components, Aircraft Engines, Fabrication & Manufacturing, and Support Equipment to Fleet Readiness Center East, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Distribute the 15 A-10 aircraft assigned to the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG), the 15 A-10 aircraft assigned to the 124th Wing (ANG), Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Boise, Idaho, the 15 A-10 aircraft assigned to the 175th Wing (ANG), Martin State Airport Air Guard Station, Baltimore, Maryland, and the 15 F-16 aircraft assigned to the 127th Wing (ANG), Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mount Clemens, Michigan, to meet the Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

Establish 18 PAA A-10 aircraft at the 124th Wing (ANG), Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Boise, Idaho.

Establish 18 PAA A-10 aircraft at the 175th Wing (ANG), Martin State Airport Air Guard Station, Baltimore, Maryland.

Establish 24 PAA A-10 aircraft at the 127th Wing (ANG), Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mount Clemens, Michigan.

If the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decides to change the organization, composition and location of the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG) to integrate the unit into the Future Total Force, all personnel allotted to the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG), including the unit's Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) elements, will remain in place and assume a mission relevant to the security interests of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and consistent with the integration of the unit into the Future Total Force, including but not limited to air mobility, C4ISR, Information Operations, engineering, flight training or unmanned aerial vehicles. Where appropriate, unit personnel will be retrained in skills relevant to the emerging mission. This recommendation does not effect a change to the authorized end-strength of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. The distribution of aircraft currently assigned to the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG) is based upon a resource-constrained determination by the Department of Defense that the aircraft concerned will better support national security requirements in other locations and is not conditioned upon the agreement of the commonwealth. Relocate Co A/228th Aviation to Fort Dix, Trenton, NJ. Relocate Reserve Intelligence Area 16 to Fort Dix.

Establish a contiguous enclave for the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG) and the 270th Engineering Installation Squadron (ANG) sufficient to support operations of those units, including flight operations, and compatible with joint use of the former Naval Air Station as a civilian airport. The Army Reserve units not relocated from Willow Grove by this recommendation, as amended, and those relocated to Willow Grove by other recommendations, as amended, will be incorporated into the Armed Forces Reserve Center established by Army Recommendation 82. The property retained under Federal title to construct the AFRC shall be limited to the absolute minimum essential to construct that facility, shall be encompassed within the enclave established by the 111th Fighter Wing (ANG) and the 270th Engineering Installation Squadron (ANG), and shall be sited to minimize interference with the Air Guard enclave and joint civilian use of the former Naval Air Station as a civilian airport. The Commission defines the authority granted to the Army by the words "retain essential facilities to support activities of the Reserve Components" where they appear in Army Recommendation 82, to be limited to the property necessary to construct AFRC itself. Should the Secretary of the Army determine that access to more property would be beneficial, a joint use agreement should be executed to obtain a tenancy from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Realign Cambria Regional Airport, Johnstown, PA, by relocating Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 Detachment A, to include all required personnel, equipment, and support, to McGuire Air Force Base.

The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.



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