Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst formed as the result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. On Oct. 1, 2009, former Fort Dix, Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst and McGuire Air Force Base were combined to create JBMDL.
The oldest portion of the installation began as an ammunition proving ground near the resort town of Lakehurst, New Jersey. In 1917, following the Russian Revolution, the Eddystone Testing Ground was procured by the Ordinance Department of the Army. The area was then named Camp Kendrick and used as a munitions and mustard gas testing location.
Nearby Camp Dix — named for Maj. Gen. John Adams Dix — was also formed in 1917, to serve as a training and staging location for the heavy troop requirements of World War I. Throughout the next few years, Camp Dix trained and deployed the 87th and 34th infantry divisions and was the birthplace of the fabled 78th “Lighting” Division and “Point of the Wedge” in World War I’s final offensive.
After the war, both installations experienced rapid reductions in manpower and personnel. However, the Navy, wishing to continue its lighter-than-air efforts, saw Camp Kendrick as a likely location for airship operations and began building the foundation for its air station in 1919. The foundation — Lakehurst’s Hangar One — was built to house and support the lighter-than-air program. The structure was 961 feet long, 350 feet wide and 200 feet high and was intentionally built oversize in order to comfortably construct and house the first of the United States’ rigid airships, the Shenandoah.
In 1921, the Navy purchased Camp Kendrick from the Army and renamed it Naval Air Station Lakehurst.
Between the wars, Camp Dix and NAS Lakehurst maintained steady operations. Camp Dix became a training facility for National Guard and Army Reserve units after World War I. Meanwhile, NAS Lakehurst became home to three of the four rigid airships owned by the Navy (ZR-1 Shenandoah, ZR-3 Los Angeles and ZRS-4 Akron). It was the nation’s first trans-Atlantic international airport and the U.S. berthing location of the LZ 129 Hindenburg. On the evening of May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg airship exploded and crashed at Lakehurst killing 37 people.
Soon after, NAS Lakehurst purchased an additional 5,892 acres and became the largest naval installation east of the Mississippi at 7,430 acres. As the Navy’s primary location for lighter-than-air vehicles, NAS Lakehurst was a thriving hub of home defense activity.
Camp Dix officially became a permanent Army installation March 8, 1939. In order to meet the needs of the Army, Fort Dix absorbed surrounding farm fields and wooded acres — nearly 35,000 acres — to create the enormous artillery grounds and training ranges. The installation gained more capacity when the Civilian Conservation Corps runway was constructed in 1937. This formed the Fort Dix Army Air Base that provided aerial support to the Army post.
At the end of World War II, more than 1.2 million soldiers returned home and demobilized at Fort Dix. Fort Dix Army Air Base closed its doors in 1946 when the demobilization mission was completed. Two years later, the Air Force reopened the installation and named it after one of World War II’s leading fighter pilots, Maj. Thomas B. McGuire. In the postwar years, the three installations would see rapid and meaningful changes.
Fort Dix remained an important Army troop training location. In 1947, it officially became a Basic Training Center and then an Army Training Center in 1956. One year later, Fort Dix revealed the “Ultimate Weapon,” which is based on the infantrymen mission. Shifting to 24-hour operations, Fort Dix swung into high gear and produced thousands of recruits to support the Vietnam conflict. To better simulate the battlefield conditions these recruits would face, Fort Dix constructed a mock Vietnamese village to provide realistic training simulations and augment the already robust training offered on the post.
NAS Lakehurst’s mission was also restructured. Lakehurst became host to the Navy’s first helicopter squadrons, as well as one of the Navy’s only overhaul-and-repair services for heavier-than-air and rotary winged aircraft (the forerunner of a Fleet Readiness Center).
Across the way, McGuire AFB opened in August 1948 and rapidly grew into an important eastern hub. From 1948 to 1954, McGuire held a short-lived role as a Cold War early warning sensor and primary defensive base. A contingent of the defensive role remained on McGuire until 1972.
McGuire quickly became known as the “Gateway to the East” as service members depended on Military Airlift Command for travel to bases and battlefields around the world on aircraft such as the C-54 Skymaster, C-118 Liftmaster and C-135 Stratolifter.
NAS Lakehurst’s name changed in 1977 when the Naval Air Engineering Center relocated from Philadelphia. The critical design, prototyping, manufacturing and testing facilities were constructed to support Naval Air Systems Command.
Five rounds of BRAC have left an indelible mark on the installation. As the result of the 1988, 1991 and 1995 BRACs, Fort Dix’s active Army training mission ended after 45 years. Dix then became an important Regional Reserve Training location and served as a critical reserve troop training location for the entire eastern region.
The 1993 BRAC ended with an increased mission and capability for McGuire AFB. The KC-10 Extenders joined the extensive C-141 Starlifter fleet stationed on McGuire since the introduction of the cargo airframe in 1967. Close partnerships with nearby Fort Dix and the strong McGuire airlift support provided to mobilizing soldiers heading to Desert Storm and Desert Shield cemented the need for a strong Air Force location on the eastern seaboard.
Initially, the 1995 BRAC targeted NAES Lakehurst for closure; however, this decision was soon reversed. Lakehurst’s support role to naval aviation, specialized testing equipment and dedicated air corridors were too valuable to be relocated. Therefore, additional specialized missions such as the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Mid-Atlantic, the Army CERDEC testing mission and a number of other support missions and training functions transferred to Lakehurst.
Since the stand-up of the joint base, McGuire, Dix and Lakehurst have settled into their enduring roles. McGuire remains the “Gateway of the East” and serves as an air mobility center of excellence. The Marines share McGuire Field and bring an airborne fighting capability to the installation. Lakehurst continues as an elite test and development facility, hosting several developmental missions for the Army and Navy. Meanwhile, the primary mission on Dix continues to revolve around training, mobilization and demobilization as Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy forces engage in the numerous developmental programs and facilities situated on the installation. A truly joint integrated installation, JBMDL’s mission partners represent all services and active, reserve and guard components.
87th Air Base Wing
The 87th Air Base Wing provides installation management to JBMDL. The wing also provides mission-ready, expeditionary airmen to support unified combatant commanders in on-going military operations. The wing consists of more than 3,100 officers and enlisted and civilian personnel from the Air Force, Army and Navy.
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center
The U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center is the Air Force’s center of excellence for advanced mobility and combat support training and education. The center also has direct oversight for en route and installation support, contingency response and partner capacity-building mission sets within the global mobility enterprise. The center provides administrative control for six wings and two groups within Air Mobility Command, to include the 87th Air Base Wing and the 621st Contingency Response Wing at JBMDL; the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing at Ramstein AFB, Germany; the 628th Air Base Wing at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; the 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group at Pope Field, North Carolina; and the 627th Air Base Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
The Expeditionary Operations School at the expeditionary center offers 92 in-residence courses and 19 web-based training courses, graduating more than 40,000 students annually. Courses include Air Force Phoenix Raven Training, Advanced Study of Air Mobility, the Aerial Port Operations Course and more.
The center, which was officially renamed the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center on March 4, 2007, is the Air Force’s leader in expeditionary training, and on Jan. 7, 2011, the center expanded in scope, taking added responsibility for evolving AMC mission sets. Today the center is a national level acceleration force, capable of projecting hard and soft power at any time by delivering “Airpower ... from the ground up!”
The 1,200 members of the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, fill a multitude of missions at JBMDL. Eight KC-135R Stratotankers assigned to the 141st Air Refueling Squadron are one part of the mission. As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure initiative, the wing has recently taken on new roles in the Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force and, consequently, the decision was made to change its name from an “air refueling wing” in 2008. Although the wing lost one of its air refueling squadrons due to BRAC, new units have been added, changing its makeup and strengthening its positioning in its service to the state and nation. The 204th Intelligence Squadron and the 150th Maintenance Flight along with medical personnel, civil engineers, security forces, supply, operations, communications, personnel, finance and the other airmen that make up the 108th allow the wing to continue to fulfill its missions and goals with excellence.
305th Air Mobility Wing
Headquartered at JBMDL, the 305th Air Mobility Wing extends America’s global reach by generating, mobilizing and deploying 32 KC-10 and 13 C-17 aircraft to conduct strategic airlift and air refueling missions worldwide. Additionally, the wing operates two of America’s largest strategic aerial ports supporting the delivery of cargo and personnel to combatant commanders abroad. Uniquely, as a result of joint base transfer, the wing directs the operations of two geographically separated airfields — one at McGuire and another at Lakehurst.
514th Air Mobility Wing
The 514th Air Mobility Wing is an associate unit that works side-by-side with the active-duty 305th Air Mobility Wing to fly and maintain their KC-10A Extenders and C-17 Globemaster IIIs. The mission of the 514th Air Mobility Wing is to recruit and train Air Force reservists for active duty and enhance our nation’s air mobility capability. Augmentation by the 514th Air Mobility Wing’s combat-ready personnel ensures full utilization of the active-duty 305th Air Mobility Wing’s aircraft, maintenance, aerial port and medical facilities.
621st Contingency Response Wing
The 621st Contingency Response Wing is highly specialized in training and rapidly deploying personnel to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations. From wartime taskings to disaster relief, the 621st extends Air Mobility Command’s reach in deploying people and equipment around the globe.
174th Infantry Brigade
The 174th Infantry Brigade advises, assists and trains reserve component forces in both pre- and post-mobilization through multicomponent, integrated, collective training in accordance with Army Total Force Policy, Department of the Army, FORSCOM and First Army directives in order to achieve directed readiness requirements.
99th Readiness Division
The 99th Readiness Division’s mission is to establish customer-oriented operational synergies and disciplined, holistic, resource-efficient processes that produce maximum unit readiness for missions at home and abroad. The division also aims to achieve and sustain levels of U.S. Army Reserve materiel, training and personnel readiness that ensure the most capable, lethal force in the history of the U.S.
The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, more commonly known as CERDEC, actively advances soldier capabilities that enable situational awareness and understanding, establish and secure communications, and protect soldiers from surprise attack.
As an Army applied research center under the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, CERDEC provides the diverse technical expertise and operational awareness and understanding to develop, engineer and foresee essential Army needs in mission command and intelligence technologies, applications and networks designed to connect and protect the soldier. Whether soldier-borne or on vehicle or aviation platforms, the Army relies on CERDEC’s technical expertise to develop and seek out capability advancements to address soldier needs.
CERDEC works with Defense Department and national basic research organizations and labs to influence research investment and adopt, adapt and mature relevant scientific breakthroughs. CERDEC maintains close ties to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s centers of excellence and operational units to stay in touch with the evolving realities of the soldier environment, anticipate challenges, refine requirements and inform operational tactics, techniques and procedures.
More than 4,000 Department of the Army civilians, military service members and contractors make up CERDEC’s workforce of scientists, engineers and business support professionals.
CERDEC has state-of-the-art laboratories and administrative facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; JBMDL; and other areas across the U.S. and overseas.
New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy
The mission of the New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy is to provide a highly disciplined environment fostering academics, leadership development, physical training and personal growth to educate and train unemployed youth who have ceased to attend high school.
Naval Air Systems Command
Naval Air Systems Command’s mission is to provide full life cycle support of naval aviation aircraft, weapons and systems operated by sailors and Marines. This support includes research, design, development and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; training facilities and equipment; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support. The command is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland, with military and civilian personnel stationed at eight locations across the continental United States and one site overseas.
Marine Aircraft Group 49
Marine Aircraft Group 49 is composed of more than 2,600 reserve and active-duty Marines and sailors spread across six squadrons, five site commands and two detachments in seven states. The MAG-49 headquarters and site command is co-located at JBMDL.
Atlantic Strike Team
The Atlantic Strike Team is one of three special teams that make up the National Strike Force. It is a vital national asset comprised of a unique, highly trained cadre of Coast Guard professionals who rapidly deploy any time to any place or hazard.
The National Strike Force provides highly trained, experienced personnel and specialized equipment to Coast Guard and other federal agencies to facilitate preparedness for and response to oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents in order to protect public health and the environment. The force’s area of responsibility covers all Coast Guard districts and federal response regions.