Happy 74th Birthday MacDill: A brief glimpse in history

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tori Schultz
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
Happy Birthday Team MacDill! MacDill Air Force Base, Florida celebrates its 74th birthday April 16, 2015.

MacDill AFB, previously known as MacDill Field, is named in honor of Col. Leslie MacDill, a military pilot who was killed instantly after crashing, shortly after take-off from Bolling Field, D.C., in the BC-1 airplane he was piloting Nov. 9, 1938. The base was formally dedicated April 16, 1941.

In previous years, MacDill AFB's mission was very different from its current refueling mission. The base was dedicated to training bombardment squadrons. Thousands of airmen who fought in World War II learned how to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-26 Marauder, and later the B-29 Superfortress in the skies over central Florida. 

Under the Strategic Air Command during the 1950s, the base was home to the first wing to fly the B-47 Stratojet in operations and became an important part of the U.S. nuclear deterrence strategy of the early Cold War years.

MacDill caught its first glimpse of air refueling when training and operational units were assigned to it in 1952.

The base came close to shutting down in 1960 when its bombardment squadrons had either been deactivated or reassigned. Cuts were denied due to MacDill's strategic location and usefulness as a staging area during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961.

In 1962, the Air Force reassigned the base to the Tactical Air Command. The first detachment of F-84 Thunderstreaks arrived and led the way to the beginning of the fighter plane era at MacDill.

For nearly 30 years, MacDill supported units that flew or trained with fighter planes, such as the F-4 Phantom and later the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

During this time, the base also provided support for other commands assigned to MacDill. Two of its most significant tenant commands, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, are still on the installation today.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. sought to downsize the military and eliminate bases; MacDill once again came close to shutting down. However, intervention from a local congressman helped save the base, but the fighter mission and personnel were relocated to Luke AFB, Arizona.

Soon after, the 6th Air Base Wing was activated in 1994 to support the large number of tenant units at MacDill.

The 6th was re-designated as an Air Refueling Wing in the Air Mobility Command in 1996. MacDill became home to the KC-135 Stratotanker and the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, thus ushering in a new era. 

The base expanded its services in 2001 to include the C-37A aircraft providing support to the top military commanders and civilian leaders on the base. As a result, the 6th Air Mobility Wing was born.

To operate more efficiently in the changing world, the Air Force paired active duty units with reserve units. In line with this reorganization, the 6th AMW welcomed the Air Force Reserve's 927th ARW to MacDill in 2008.

Today, MacDill supports 38 tenant units, has 16 KC-135s, and 3 C-37s assigned to the base. It continues to provide air refueling support and work alongside our reserve partners as well as the local community.