Air Force Transfers Final Acreage of former Kelly and Myrtle Beach Air Force Bases

  • Published
  • By Melissa Baird
  • AFRPA / PA

On September 30, the Air Force handed-off the final pieces of base property in San Antonio, TX at former Kelly Air Force Base and in South Carolina, at the former Myrtle Beach AFB into the hands of the local communities. With the two former bases completely transferred, they begin a new era of service to their country. Both bases were placed on the Base Realignment and Closure list during the 1990s.

"These bases have a long, proud history of service to our nation," said Robert Moore, Director of the Air Force Real Property Agency. "Since closing they have completely transformed themselves into thriving residential and commercial properties that serve to stimulate the surrounding area."

Kelly Field, later Kelly Air Force Base, established in 1917, is one of the Air Force's oldest continuously active air bases. Many of the leaders who built the Army Air Forces of World War II and fought successfully for an independent Air Force spent time at Kelly as commanders, pilots, instructors, or cadets. Notable graduates of the Advanced Flying School at Kelly include Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, who graduated in 1925. Other graduates included former Air Force Chiefs of Staff Generals Thomas D. White, Curtis E. LeMay, John P. McConnell, Hoyt Vandenberg, and John Dale Ryan. Major General Claire Chennault of World War II "Flying Tiger" fame taught at the school. Kelly has long played an equally vital role in sustaining American military airpower through its logistics management mission, and was once the largest employer in South Texas.

The 389 acres transferred at Kelly includes most of the original industrial area at former Kelly AFB. In total, 1,887 acres of base property has been transferred to the San Antonio community. Some 65 commercial organizations have established a business presence at the former base, including Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, and Lockheed Martin. The Air Force has leased back about 200 acres including Building 171, which now houses 2,700 people from 11 Air Force agencies, such as the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and the Air Force Services Agency.

Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was established in 1940 as a World War II training base and was also used for coastal patrols during the war. After the war it was a front-line USAF base in the Cold War, Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990. The 354th Fighter Day Wing/Tactical Fighter Wing, based there from 1956 - 1993, deployed squadrons in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, with major service in Lebanon, Germany, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf.

After transferring the final 2.4 acres, all 3,937 acres of the former base is in the hands of local community agencies such as the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, Horry County, and several other organizations. Redevelopment includes an International Airport, The Market Common urban village, residential development and other commercial facilities. Tenants include the American Red Cross, Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Allied Healthcare.

Since the BRAC decision to close these bases, the Air Force has conducted extensive environmental investigation and remediation. Throughout the transfer process, the Air Force remains committed to protecting human health and the environment. The Air Force Real Property Agency works closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and local regulatory agencies to ensure environmental cleanup satisfies all regulatory standards. To date, $2.8 billion has been spent on BRAC environmental programs across the country with another $1.12 billion budgeted for completion. Although the Air Force will no longer be a landowner at the former Kelly and Myrtle Beach bases, it will be actively involved for years to come to complete the environmental cleanup.

At the height of the BRAC process, AFRPA managed 87,000 acres, or about 137 square miles of property. In the two decades since the first BRAC in 1988, the agency has transferred 89 percent, or more than 116 square miles of land - twice the area of Washington, D.C. - back to communities for public use.