Ellsworth Air Force Base (EAFB)
Ellsworth AFB was established in 1942 as Rapid City Army Base. In 1953, the name changed in honor of Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth, who was killed in a RB-36 Peacemaker aircraft crash in Newfoundland. The current mission of the 28th Bomb Wing is to deliver decisive combat power for global response. The wing consists of four major units: operations, maintenance, mission support and medical groups. The Ellsworth AFB population of approximately 8,000 includes military members, family members and civilian employees. In addition, about 3,800 military retirees in western South Dakota maintain ties to Ellsworth AFB.
Rapid City Army Air Base’s original mission was to train B-17 ﬂying fortress crews. Instructors taught thousands of pilots, navigators, radio operators and gunners from nine heavy bombardment groups and numerous smaller units. All training focused on the Allied drive to overthrow the Axis powers in Europe. After World War II, the base brieﬂy trained weather reconnaissance and combat squadrons. In 1947 the base became a United States Air Force installation operating the new B-29 Superfortress. It was followed by the B-39 Peacemaker, B-52 Stratofortress, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and B-1B Lancer. Today, Ellsworth has been assigned the additional mission of the Air Force’s Financial Services Center and an Unmanned Aerial Systems Squadron.
Located on Rapid City’s west side is the headquarters of the South Dakota National Guard at Camp Rapid. Although the state capital is in Pierre, the state's Adjutant General is located at Camp Rapid. The camp developed as a summer encampment site for the South Dakota National Guard in the early 20th century, using land borrowed from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It became a permanent installation during and immediately after World War I, when it was used for mobilization of National Guard units for the front in France. Its use continued during the 1920s and 1930s and it was taken over as a federal installation during World War II.
Over the past decade, the permanent and temporary buildings erected during World War II have been replaced with modern facilities designed to accommodate the evolving missions of today’s National Guard. Camp Rapid employs 342 full time Army and Air National Guard members and civilians and supports several deployments each year. It is host to annual exercises involving thousands of National Guard personnel from several states and military personnel from foreign nations.
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