On California’s Central Coast, Vandenberg Air Force Base is near Lompoc and Santa Maria in northern Santa Barbara County with Lompoc, 11 miles from the base, being the closest town. For drivers, it’s 160 miles northwest of Los Angeles on U.S. Highway 101; 375 miles south of San Francisco by way of U.S. 101, with a jog west at the Betteravia Exit in Santa Maria to California Highway 135, then California Highway 1; 1,600 miles west of Dallas; 1,170 miles west of Denver; and 2,167 miles southwest of Chicago.
The base encompasses almost 99,600 acres, with 42 miles of pristine coastline stretching along the Pacific Ocean. There are 9,000 acres of sand dunes, 5,000 acres of wetlands, more than 1,600 prehistoric archeological and 14 rock art sites, five Native American villages, the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and a National Historic Landmark (Space Launch Complex 10), 26 Cold War-era complexes, and 15-plus endangered or threatened species.
Vandenberg Air Force Base was named in honor of the late Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, second Air Force chief of staff of the United States Air Force and chief architect of today’s modern Air Force. In honor of his service to the nation, the aerospace base, formerly Cooke Air Force Base, was rechristened Vandenberg AFB on Oct. 4, 1958.
The base is home to the 30th Space Wing, which manages DOD space and missile testing and uses expendable boosters to place satellites into polar orbit. Wing personnel also support the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force Development Evaluation program.
Vandenberg’s population of military, family members, contractors and civilian employees totals more than 18,000, the base says. There are approximately 2,595 Air Force personnel assigned, 2,943 family members, 1,081 Department of Defense civilians, 233 contractors and about 8,000 retirees in the region.
The most recent figures available show Vandenberg Air Force Base’s annual impact on the local economy to be approximately $1.75 billion. It is among the largest employers in Santa Barbara County and the Lompoc Valley.