|SAC Bases: March
Air Force Base
March AFB was realigned under Base
Closure and Realignment [BRAC] III
announced in March 1993, with a realignment date of March 31, 1996. March Air
Reserve Base is named for 2nd Lt. Peyton C. March, who died Feb. 18, 1918. It is
located 9 mi. southeast of Riverside, California. The base covers about 6,700
acres. Of these 6,700 acres, the Air Force Reserves retain 2,258 acres at the
airport. The airfield's 13,300-foot runway is the longest in California.
The attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 quickly brought March Field
into the business of training air crews. Throughout the war many
soon-to-be-famous bombardment groups performed their final training at March
before embarking for duty in the Pacific. During this period the base doubled in
area and at the zenith of the war effort supported approximately 75,000 troops.
After the war, March reverted to its operational role and became a Tactical
Air Command base. The main unit, the famed 1st Fighter Wing, brought the first
jet aircraft, the F-80, to the base. This deviation from the traditional
bombardment training and operations functions did not long endure. In 1949,
March became a part of the relatively new Strategic Air Command. Headquarters
Fifteenth Air Force along with the 33d Communications Squadron moved to March
from Colorado Springs in the same year. Also in 1949, the 22d Bombardment Wing
moved from Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas to March. Thereafter, these three
units remained as dominant features of base activities. From 1949 to 1953, the
B-29 Superfortresses dominated the flightline at March Air Force Base. For four
months, July to October, the 22d saw action over Korea.
The wing converted from the propeller-driven B-29s to the B-47 jet bombers
and their supporting tankers, the KC-97s. The KC-97s belonging to the 17th and
22d Air Refueling Squadrons represented an jump in technology.
The end of the 1960s saw March Air Force Base preparing to exchange its B-47s
and KC-97s for updated bombers and tankers. Increasing international tensions in
Europe and elsewhere by September 16, 1963, brought March its first B-52B
bomber, "The City of Riverside." Soon 15 more of the bombers appeared on the flightline along with new KC-135 jet "Stratotankers." March's first KC-135, "The
Mission Bell" arrived on October 4, 1963. For the next twenty years this team
would dominate the skies over what had come to be called the Inland Empire as
the 22d Bombardment Wing played a feature role in the Strategic Air Command's
mission. During the conflict in Southeast Asia, the 22d Bombardment Wing
deployed its planes several times in operations such as Young Tiger, Rolling
Thunder, Arc Light and Linebacker II.
March AFB - circa 1970
adjustments brought the retirement of the wing's last B-52 on November 9, 1982.
This event signaled yet another era for March Air Force Base and for the 22d.
The 22d Bombardment Wing , so long a key ingredient in March's long history,
would become an air refueling wing with the new KC-10 tanker.
Operating under a caretaker agreement, the March Joint Powers Authority (JPA)
began operating and maintaining the realigned portion of March Air Force Base on
April 1, 1996. The JPA will operate and maintain utility systems in both the
realigned area (4,400 acres in the base proper), and in the Air Force Reserve
cantonment area (the airport with 2, 258 acres.) The March Joint Powers
Authority membership includes the County of Riverside, and the Cities of Moreno
Valley, Perris and Riverside.
In 1993, March Air Force Base was selected for realignment. In August 1993,
the 445th Airlift Wing transferred to March from Norton AFB, Calif. On January
3, 1994, the 22d Air Refueling Wing was transferred to McConnell AFB, Kansas,
and the 722d Air Refueling Wing stood up at March. As part of the Air Force's
realignment and transition, March's two Reserve units, the 445th Airlift Wing
and the 452d Air refueling Wing were deactivated and their personnel and
equipment joined under the 452d Air Mobility Wing on April 1, 1994. On April 1,
1996, March officially became March Air Reserve Base.
The Air Force spent $37 million in 1996 on remediation and was authorized to
spend $23 million in 1997. The initial cost estimate to restore March was set at
about $300 million and was to be completed by year 2010. A fast track cleanup
initiative was expected to cost about $170 million and to be finished by 2000.
The March Field Museum Foundation with nearly 1,000 supporters is now solely
responsible for maintaining and displaying approximately 5,000 museum items and
50 aircraft on loan from the Air Force. All Air Force financial contributions
ended April 1, 1996 when March Air Force Base was realigned.
The 452nd Air Mobility Wing represents the only unit-equipped mobility wing
in the Reserve. The Wing's KC-135 Stratotankers and C-141 Starlifters enable it
to effectively perform a worldwide mission 365 days a year. It is the only air
mobility wing in the Air Force Reserve Command that possesses all of the
elements of an air mobility wing. The 163d Air Refueling Wing (ANG) is a tenant
unit at March Air Reserve Base assigned to the Air Mobility Command and the
California Air National Guard.
The 4th Air Force, part of Air Force Reserve Command, is headquartered at
March ARB. Air Force Reserve Command provides trained units and individuals to
accomplish assigned taskings in support of national objectives, and performs
peacetime missions that are compatible with training and mobilization readiness
requirements. Responsibilities include airlift and refueling duties. It also
provides functional mission support units, including aerial port operations,
civil engineer, security forces, intelligence, military training,
communications, mobility support, combat logistics support, transportation and
Some of the Exhibits at March Air
NCO Club, circa 1954