March Air Force Base (AFB), California, a military installation in use almost continually since 1918, served as an active duty aerial refueling and deployment base, and encompassed approximately 6,500 acres. Recommended for realignment by BRAC in 1993, March AFB converted to March Air Reserve Base (ARB) on April 1, 1996, resulting in the surplusing of approximately 4,400 acres of property and a number of buildings. Base realignment resulted in a significant impact to the local economy. The impacts are measured in direct loss of military and civilian jobs, loss of contract spending by the base, and loss of indirect economic activity as a result of the changes. Prior to realignment, the base employed more than 9,000 military personnel and civilian employees. The existence of the base in its pre-realignment condition contributed an estimated $500 million annually to the regional economy.
The March Joint Powers Authority (JPA), formed in 1993 and is charged with the responsibility of base reuse, planning, and development, including establishing a joint-use aviation facility. While base realignment and the associated loss to the region came at an inopportune time, the opportunities relative to the planning and implementation of new uses and providing for unmet needs of the region have arisen. The March JPA is planning and implementing new uses for currently vacant lands, reuse of existing facilities, and joint use of the airfield facilities for the development of an air cargo facility. Overall, long-term economic gains in the form of developing a civilian air cargo center and the growth and development of an employment center to account for 38,000 jobs are projected.
History of March Air Force Base
Located within the western Riverside County region of Southern California,March Air Force Base (AFB) encompassed approximately 6,500 acres straddling Interstate 215 (Highway 395) just south of Highway 60. March AFB was first established as a military installation in 1918, and has operated almost continually since. In July, 1993, March AFB was selected to be realigned, and subsequently converted from an active duty base to a Reserve Base, effective April 1, 1996. The decision to realign March AFB resulted in approximately 4,400 acres of property and facilities being declared surplus and available for disposal actions, as well as joint use of the airfield.
Prior to base realignment, the base employed over 10,000 military personnel and civilian employees. The existence of the base in its pre-realignment condition contributed an estimated $500 million annually to the regional economy. With the announcement of realignment, the regional economic loss with the change in military mission at March was immediately recognized. While base realignment and the associated loss to the region came at an inopportune time, the opportunities relative to the planning and implementation of new uses and providing for unmet needs of the region have arisen. The March JPA is planning and implementing new uses for currently vacant lands, reuse of existing facilities, and joint use of the airfield facilities for the development of an air cargo facility. In short, long-term economic gains in the form of developing a civilian air cargo center, and the growth and development of an employment center to account for 38,000 jobs, are projected.
|As World War I dragged on, stalemated by trench warfare, the U.S. government determined to restore the initiative by gaining aerial supremacy. The establishment of nearly two dozen additional training fields during 1917 was capped by the activation of a field that was later to become March Field.
|On February 7, 1918, the War Department accepted the Alessandro Aviation Field site as an aviation training camp, consisting of 640 acres plus three nearby sites of 160 acres each. Original lease was for five months and thirteen days at a cost of $1 with an option for renewal and purchase. The Riverside Chamber of Commerce carried a $64,000 bond to guarantee the cost.This barley field alongside the railroad and the Alessandro station had been used since the fall of 1917 as a cross-country stop for aviators from Rockwell Field, San Diego, where they shared a station with the U.S. Navy on an island now called Coronado Naval Station.
On February 16, Sergeant Garlick and three other enlisted men arrived by truck with tents, cookstove, provisions, and fuel. The first official landing was by Cadet Harold Compare on March 1. On March 11, Captain William Carruthers relieved Sgt. Garlick as commander of the 818th Aero Squadron.
On March 20, the field was renamed in honor of Lt. Peyton C. March, an aviator who died in Texas from injuries suffered in an aircraft crash.
The first cadets arrived in April and their 96 planes, unassembled Curtiss JN-4D “Jennys,” were put together by the cadets and housed in 12 wood and tarpaper hangars.
In July, cadets in the first class to graduate were commissioned “2nd Lt.” and sent to Kelly Field, Texas, for advanced training.
When the Armistice came in November, the cadets had recorded 35,468 flying hours, with 185 cadets earning their wings.
|In May, 1919, the Federal government purchased the field and it became a permanent base. A primary flight school was in operation until 1921 when training was discontinued. This was followed in 1922 when the base was reduced to caretaker status and was closed in 1926.
|1927 marked the reactivation of March as a primary training base, and permanent construction of “Spanish Mission” architecture was authorized.
|It became a tactical base in 1931 with the 7th Bombardment Group and the 17th Pursuit Group, both in the 1st Bombardment wing.Being near the aircraft industrial center of Los Angeles, many planes were test-flown from March by famous flyers, both civilian and military. Much of this activity was due to the inspired leadership of “Hap” Arnold, the base commander from 1931 to 1936.
|With the attack on Pearl Harbor, March entered its third training era, with the B-17 and later the B-24 heavy bombers. The base doubled in area and supported 75,000 troops.
|The Tactical Air Command took over control, and the 12th Air Force was assigned with P-80 jet-equipped fighter groups.
|When the U.S. Air Force was activated in 1947, March Field became March Air Force Base.
|The Strategic Air Command came in 1949 when the 15th Air Force and the 22nd Bomb Group with B-29s arrived.
|In 1953, the 22nd Bomb Group was converted to B-47s ,and the 22nd Air Refueling Squadron was activated with KC-97s.
|Air Force Reserve units were assigned in 1960 to carry out rescue and troop carrier missions.
|The B-47s were phased out in 1963 by the arrival of the B-52, and the jet-powered KC-135 replaced the KC-997 tanker.
|By 1966, two bomber squadrons and two air refueling squadrons formed the largest bomb wing in the Strategic Command. The men and aircraft supported the combat troops in Vietnam by deploying to mid-Pacific bases and flying lengthy missions over enemy targets.
|The 1980s saw the removal of the B-52s, and the replacement of the KC-135s by the KC-10 air refueler.
|Communities generate support to keep MAFB open and make their position to the public and the BRAC Commission.
|Command was transferred from the Strategic Air Command to the Air Mobility Command, and the 15th AF moved to Travis AFB.In June, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended that March AFB be included in the “third round” (BRAC 3) of military base closures or realignments. The recommendation was approved by the President in July. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units remained at March AFB and the base was redesignated “March Air Reserve Base.” The Base decreased to approximately 1/3 of its previous size.
Resolutions from Riverside County and the cities of Perris, Moreno Valley, and Riverside formed the March Joint Powers Authority in September.
|In January the Joint Powers Commission set policies, hired initial staff, procured first grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment, and initiated the base reuse planning process.In May, the Air Force published a listing of properties that were excess to its needs in the Federal Register; other agencies have the opportunity to “claim” for their use.
The first draft MAFB Master Reuse Plan was completed to include Land Use and Circulation sections; used as preferred alternative for EIS in September.
Assembly Bill 3769 was passed by the California Legislature, granting special authority to permit the development of the base in September.
In December, the JPA submitted a request to the Secretary of Defense to conduct homeless assistance screening and planning under new legislation.
|The JPA adopted the Homeless Assistance Plan in December.The JPA and the Air Force agreed to terms on a number of interim leases, and the JPA sub-leased the facilities to tenants.
|The JPA established the Redevelopment Agency in January. After July, 1995, the JPA instituted feasibility analyses to examine the potential of establishing a redevelopment agency.The Air Force issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in March.
In July, Certification of Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), and adoption of March JPA Redevelopment Agency Project Area & Plan.
The National Park Service approved the JPA’s application for a no-cost conveyance of the March AFB Golf Course in December.
|The JPA assumed land use control for all surplus property, and the JPA staff began the process of completing the California General Plan in January.In May, The Air Force and the JPA formally signed a “Joint Use Agreement” for the shared use of the airfield facilities. The Air Force signed the first Partial “Record of Decision” (ROD) designating the final cantonment area boundaries and the properties to be designated as “airport related” in a future conveyance.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the JPA’s public benefit conveyance application for the “airport related” properties in June.
|The Air Force conveyed property to new owners per the multiple ROD.
|March AFB is an Air Mobility Command facility, and the home of the 163rd Air Refueling Wing and the 452nd Air Mobility Wing. The KC-10 operates from March, as well as the reserve-flown C-141 and the KC-135 flown by the Guard. U.S. Customs maintains a fleet of smaller planes including two Blackhawk helicopters in their efforts against drug delivery.