Fort Richardson Army Base, Alaksa
Fort Richardson was named for the military pioneer explorer, Brig Gen. Wilds P. Richardson, who served three tours of duty in the rugged Alaska territory between 1897 and 1917. Richardson, a native Texan and an 1884 West Point graduate, commanded troops along the Yukon River and supervised construction of Fort Egbert near Eagle, and Fort William H. Seward (Chilkoot Barracks) near Haines.
As head of the War Department's Alaska Road Commission during 1905-1917, he was responsible for much of the surveying and building of early railroads, roads and bridges that helped the state's settlement and growth. The Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, surveyed under his direction in 1904, was named the Richardson Highway in his honor.
Fort Richardson was built during 1940-1941 on the site of what is now Elmendorf Air Force Base. Established as the headquarters of the United States Army Alaska in 1947, the post moved to its present location five miles north of Anchorage in 1950. The post then had housing barracks for 500 soldiers, a rifle range, a few warehouses, a hospital and a bachelor officer housing quarters.
Fort Richardson is now headquarters for United States Army Alaska, a subordinate unit of United States Army Pacific, and for United States Army Garrison Fort Richardson, which provides mission and installation support for USARAK's combat forces stationed here.
The major combat unit at Fort Richardson is the 4th Drigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. The recently activated brigade was formed around Task Force 1-501 Airborne, which deployed to Afganistan October 2003 through July 2004.
At the time of it's deployment, 1-501st was the only airborne infantry battalion in the Pacific Theater. The Soldiers of 4-25th returned from a successful tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in December 2007.
A full range of family and Soldier support facilities common to any small community are found on post, from a shoppette to childcare and recreational facilities. The post has small but modern dental and medical clinics, and receives major medical services from the 3rd Medical Group hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The Joint Military Mall located between Fort Richardson and Elmendorf provides Post Exchange and commissary services.
Another major tenant organization is the Alaska National Guard, with facilities at Camp Carroll and Camp Denali. Fort Richardson also hosts several non-military activities to include a Veterans Administration National Cemetery and state of Alaska Fish Hatchery.
As of June 2008, Fort Richardson was home to 5,814 Soldiers, with more than 8,300 family member here with their Soldiers. The fort employs more than 1,200 Army and Department of Defense civilian employees.
The fort encompasses 62,000 acres, which includes space for offices, family housing, a heliport, a drop zone suitable for airborne and air/land operations, firing ranges and other training areas.
Nearby mountain ranges offer Soldiers the opportunity to learn mountain/glacier warfare and rescue techniques.
Fort Richardson's nearest neighbor is Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, population 277,000. North of post are the communities of Chugiak/Eagle River, Wasilla, and Palmer.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Fort Richardson will combine with Elmendorf Air Force Base as a joint base in 2010, in accordance with 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendation which became law November 9th, 2005.
One of those recommendations called for merging installation management functions at 12 sites where two or more military installations belonging to different services exist in close proximity.
Installation management functions, in simple terms, are all the day-to-day activities that provide for the operation of the installation such as snow plowing, child care, utilities and housing.
Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base are two installations amoung the 12 sites designated to merge. Specifically, the law says we will "Realign Fort Richardson, AK by relocating the installation management functions to Elmendorf AFB, AK establishing Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK."
According to the BRAC law this merger must be accomplished not later than Sept. 15, 2011. Planning for this merger is on-going.
The effects of creating Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, commonly referred to as JBER, should be transparent to the people who live and work on Fort Richardson.
The quality and levels of base support services will not decrease as a result of this merger and, in some cases, may increase. Convenience will not be sacrificed either.
The "store front" customer service locations such as the Housing Office, Legal Services, and Lodging will all remain in their current locations. All in all, JBER should result in more efficient and effective delivery of base support services to everyone on the installation.