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Grissom Air Force Base

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Title: Grissom Air Force Base  
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Subject: Tavis Smiley, Base Realignment and Closure Commission, GAFB, David J. Campanale, Space Shuttle abort modes, Miami Correctional Facility, 319th Air Base Wing, Indiana
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Grissom Air Force Base

For the civil general aviation airport at this site, see Grissom Aeroplex.

Template:Infobox military structure

Airfield information
Elevation AMSL 812 ft / 247 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5/23 12,501 3,810 Asphalt
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Grissom ARB
Grissom ARB
Location of Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana

Grissom Air Reserve Base is a United States Air Force base, located approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Kokomo, Indiana. The facility is a joint use civil airport/military base with the Grissom Aeroplex which provides general aviation and charter service. It is named in memory of astronaut and Indiana native Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, who, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee, perished in the Apollo I fire at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 in 1967.


Grissom Air Reserve Base is located in North Central Indiana and is home to the largest Chief Master Sergeant Larry Brady.

Additionally, Grissom ARB is home to units from the U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Other organizations located at Grissom ARB include the Civil Air Patrol, Air Force Reserve Command Regional Supply Distribution Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and TRANSAM, an Air Force unit that redistributes governmental assets to Native American reservations.


The United States Navy established Naval Air Station Bunker Hill in 1942 and closed it after World War II ended. The United States Air Force reopened the base in 1954 as Bunker Hill Air Force Base. In 1968, the Air Force later renamed the base in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Ivan ("Gus") Grissom, an American astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 accident at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As an active Air Force installation from 1954 to 1994, Grissom Air Force Base hosted various aircraft, including the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.

Navy base and transfer to Air Force

The United States Navy on 1 July 1942 started Naval Air Station Bunker Hill to train Navy, United States Marine Corps and United States Coast Guard pilots. Ted Williams of professional baseball fame received training as a Marine Corps Naval Aviator at Naval Air Station Bunker Hill. The naval pilot training mission ended after World War II in 1946, and the Navy closed Naval Air Station Bunker Hill.

After World War II, the base area reverted to farming use. United States Air Force obtained right of entry to 25 buildings from United States Navy on 16 November 1951 and used the base under United States Air Force Storage Branch. Still in inactive status, it was transferred from the Navy to the Air Force on 31 March 1954. In the wake of the Korean War, the Air Force reopened the installation as Bunker Hill Air Force Base on 22 June 1954 and assigned it to Tactical Air Command. The base began to host the 4433d Air Base Squadron on 1 April 1955.

323d fighter-bomber wing

The Air Force activated Bunker Hill Air Force Base on 18 August 1955, with Tactical Air Command activating the 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing, and the 323d Air Base Group coming under TAC's Ninth Air Force. Initially training with North American F-86Fs, these were quickly upgraded to the North American F-86H Sabre and then to the North American F-100A/D in 1956 to become proficient in tactical air operations. The wing's aircraft wore a band on the tail, and around the nose edged with small black checkers.

In addition, Air Defense Command activated the 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at the new base, reporting to the 4706th Air Defense Wing at K. I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan. Initially operating the F-89 Scorpion interceptor, the mission of the 319th FIS was the air defense of the southern Great Lakes and Chicago-Gary-Central Indiana region. It was later upgraded to the F-94 Starfire. The ADC interceptors remained until 1 January 1959.

Strategic Air Command (SAC) assumed operational control of Bunker Hill Air Force Base from Tactical Air Command on 1 September 1957; the Air Force then inactivated the 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing, and the 4041st Air Base Group arrived that day. The Air Force began to station the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker on the base in 1957.

305th wing era

Strategic Air Command on 1 June 1959 moved the 305th Bombardment Wing, Medium, (305 BMW) from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to Bunker Hill Air Force Base. The wing flew the Boeing B-47 Stratojet; the Convair B-58 Hustler then began replacing the B-47s. Starting in 1960, the Air Force equipped the 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron with the F-106 Delta Dart. This squadron departed on 1 March 1963.

On 27 January 1967, the Apollo I spacecraft caught fire during a pre-launch preparation at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34, killing United States Air Force astronaut Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, an Indiana native and Purdue University graduate. The Air Force officially renamed Bunker Hill Air Force Base as Grissom Air Force Base in his honor on 12 May 1968.

With the retirement of the B-58 in 1970, the Air Force redesignated the 305th Bombardment Wing, Medium, as the 305th Air Refueling Wing (305 ARW) on 1 January 1970. The Air Force transferred the 70th Air Refueling Squadron from another wing at Little Rock Air Force Base to the 305th Air Refueling Wing in 1970. From the early 1970s, the 305th Air Refueling Wing deployed KC-135 aircraft to Europe, Alaska, Greenland, and the Pacific to support worldwide tanker task forces. Meanwhile, the 931st Air Refueling Group arrived on 15 January 1970.

In June 1972, the 305th Air Refueling Squadron deployed elements to Korat Air Base, Thailand, as the 4104th Air Refueling Squadron (Provisional). Later in 1972 the 4104th ARS (P) was relocated to U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield.

305th wing and 434th (reserve) wing

The Air Force Reserve joined the Grissom personnel complement in the early 1970s with the activation of the 434th Special Operations Wing (434 SOW) and their Cessna A-37 Dragonfly aircraft to the base on 15 January 1971. On 1 October 1973, the Air Force Reserve redesignated the 434th Special Operations Wing as the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing.

In 1975, the Air Force inactivated the 3d Post Attack Command and Control System of the 305th Air Refueling Wing and transferred specialized Boeing EC-135s to the 70th Air Refueling Squadron of the 305th Air Refueling Wing. The 931st Air Refueling Group (931 ARG) departed on 1 July 1975. The United States Army Reserve began its presence at Grissom in the 1970s.

On 1 February 1978, the Air Force renamed the 305th Air Refueling Wing as the 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy. The Air Force activated the 931st Air Refueling Group at the base on 1 July 1978 as the second group of Air Force Reservists. The base also served as the home of one active duty wing and two reserve wings, using 60 KC-135 Stratotanker and 18 A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter aircraft. The 72d Air Refueling Squdron of the Air Force Reserve began operating its KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from the Grissom in 1978.

The 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, provided tanker refueling support to units involved in the invasion of Grenada in October 1983. The 931st Air Refueling Group departed Grissom on 1 July 1987. The Air Force Reserve on 1 July 1978 redesignated the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing as the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, giving it a similar mission to that of the 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy.

The 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, provided tanker support to units involved in the United States invasion of Panama in December 1989. From August 1990 to June 1991, deployed 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, personnel and aircraft provided refueling support for air operations in southwest Asia as part of Operation Desert Storm. The 305th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, also delivered food to the Kurds in Northern Iraq from April to May 1991. The Air Force redesignated the wing as 305th Air Refueling Wing on 1 September 1991.

Despite this activity, the end of the Cold War led to a downsizing of the military. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission of 1991 recommended closure of Grissom Air Force Base. On 1 February 1992, the Air Force Reserve redesignated the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Heavy, as the 434th Air Refueling Wing and that year activated the 74th Air Refueling Squadron within the 434th Air Refueling Wing to operate the KC-135 Stratotanker. The Air Force inactivated Strategic Air Command (SAC) and realigned the 305th Air Refueling Wing to the newly established Air Mobility Command (AMC) on 15 June 1992. The Air Mobility Command merged air refueling aircraft from Strategic Air Command with strategic and tactical theater airlift aircraft from Military Airlift Command (MAC). The Air Force Reserve renamed the 434th Air Refueling Wing as the 434th Wing on 1 August 1992. Base Realignment and Closure Commission of 1993 directed realignment of Grissom Air Force Base to the Air Force Reserve (AFRES).

The 305th Air Refueling Wing phased out operations and ended its presence on base on 30 September 1994, when the Air Force inactivated it. The Air Force then immediately reactivated a new 305th Air Refueling Wing with different personnel and equipment at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. The Air Force inactivated the KC-135Rs of the 70th Air Refueling Squadron of the 305th Air Refueling Wing; this squadron transferred to Travis Air Force Base in California, joined another wing, and used a different aircraft. The Air Force also retired the Boeing EC-135G/L radio relay aircraft as part of the demise of the Post Attack Command and Control System.

434th wing on Grissom Air Reserve Base

Effective 1 October 1994, Grissom Air Force Base ceased active-duty operations, and the active Air Force transferred nearly half of the former base, including the runway, to the Air Force Reserve as Grissom Air Reserve Base. The Air Force Reserve (AFRES) redesignated the 434th Wing as the 434th Air Refueling Wing (434 ARW), which began the 434th Mission Support Group. The 434th Air Refueling Wing operates a KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling squadron, operationally within the Air Mobility Command (AMC).

Because of this inactivation, the Air Force reassigned Grissom Air Reserve Base in 1997 to the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC). The base added Marine Corps Reserve units in 2001 and United States Navy Reserve units in 2002. In 2005, in an effort to consolidate Navy Reserve stations, the Navy Reserve transferred all its Grissom units to the Navy Operational Support Center at Heslar Naval Armory in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 2008, Grissom Air Reserve Base entered into a joint-use agreement and opened its runway to civilian operations. Montgomery Aviation of Zionsville, Indiana, manages the day-to-day civil operations at Grissom Air Reserve Base. Under a five-year contract with the Miami County Economic Development Authority, Montgomery Aviation provides maintenance, fuel, and other services. Montgomery Aviation currently promotes the airport to business jets as a refueling stop for long cross-country flights. Its extremely long runway and instrument navigation facilities make Grissom Air Reserve Base especially well suited to this role. Civilian air traffic controllers also staff a radar approach control at the airport.

Until the retirement of the Space Shuttle on 21 July 2011, Grissom was listed as one of the emergency landing sites due to its 12,000 ft runway

Current operations

Grissom Air Reserve Base still hosts the 434th Air Refueling Wing of Air Force Reserve Command. The Air Force Reserve Command controls only four other bases in the United States of America. Grissom also hosts Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve units.

The base also serves its duty to the local community beyond its military functions. It has a combined workforce consisting of both military personnel and civilians and currently ranks as the largest employer in Miami County and the third largest employer in north-central Indiana. Grissom claims an economic impact of over $130 million per year, and community activities also heavily involve Grissom. Such programs include the Marine Corps Reserve's "Toys for Tots", conducted annually in November and December. The National Arbor Day Foundation also designated the base as a "Tree City".

Previous names

  • Established as Naval Air Station, Bunker Hill, 1942–1946
  • Inactivated and used for farming, 1946–1951
  • Reestablished as United States Air Force Storage Branch, 16 November 1951
  • Bunker Hill Air Force Base, 22 June 1954
  • Grissom Air Force Base, 12 May 1968
  • Grissom Air Reserve Base, 1 October 1994–present

Major commands to which assigned

  • Tactical Air Command, 22 June 1954
  • Strategic Air Command, 1 September 1957
  • Air Mobility Command, 1 June 1992
  • Air Force Reserve Command, 1 October 1994

Base operating units

  • 4433d Air Base Squadron, 1 April 1955
  • 323d Air Base Group, 8 August 1955
  • 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 November 1955 – 1 March 1963
  • 4041st Air Base Group, 1 September 1957
  • 305th Combat Support Group, 1 June 1959
  • 931st Air Refueling Group, 15 January 1970 – 1 July 1975; 1 July 1978 – 1 July 1987.
  • 434th Mission Support Group, 1 October 1994–present

Major units assigned

  • 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing, 8 August 1955 – 1 September 1957
  • 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 1 November 1955 – 1 January 1959 (Air Defense Command)
  • 305th Bombardment (later Air Refueling) Wing, 1 June 1959 – 30 September 1994
  • 434th Special Operations (later Tactical Fighter, later Air Refueling) Wing, 15 January 1971–present


Grissom Air Reserve Base is located at 40°40′15″N 86°09′17″W / 40.670699°N 86.154670°W / 40.670699; -86.154670Coordinates: 40°40′15″N 86°09′17″W / 40.670699°N 86.154670°W / 40.670699; -86.154670.[2]

The base is listed by the United States Census Bureau as the "Grissom AFB" census-designated place (CDP), with an area of 5.0 square miles (12.9 km2), all land.[3]


As of the census[4] of 2010, there were 5,537 people, 836 households, and 579 families residing in the CDP. Of the total population, 3,198 persons were residing in group quarters. The overall population density was 1,107.4 per square mile (429.2 per square kilometer). There were 1,150 housing units at an average density of 230.0/mi2 (89.1/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 74.4% White, 22.5% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.0% some other race, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.6% of the population.[5]

There were 836 households, out of which 49.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.4% were headed by married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.4% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80, and the average family size was 3.34.[5]

In the CDP the population was spread out with 14.8% under the age of 18, 12.1% from 18 to 24, 47.3% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 4.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.2 years. For every 100 females there were 338.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 454.0 males.[5]

For the period 2007–2011, the estimated median annual income for a household in the CDP was $42,105, and the median income for a family was $42,857. Males had a median income of $35,819 versus $27,857 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $15,423. About 19.3% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.[6]

In popular culture

Grissom appears in the video game Tom Clancy's EndWar as a possible battlefield.[7]

Grissom is also mentioned in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a base used before the attack on Chicago.

See also


  • Template:AFHRA

 This article incorporates Grissom Air Reserve Base".

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 – 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado

External links

  • Grissom Air Reserve Base, official site
  • Grissom Air Museum
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