Former McClellan AFB continues to protect, serve as public safety hub

  • Published
  • By Scott Johnston
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
For 65 years the former McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif., protected and served our nation.
In 2001, the Base Realignment and Closure Act closed McClellan's gates, but opened the door for a new generation of protection and service in the Sacramento region and beyond.

Today, as the former installation continues to successfully evolve from its military past, a number of public safety entities are taking advantage of reuse opportunities to become part of McClellan's fresh new identity.

To facilitate this rapid redevelopment, the Air Force, with the help of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, began to lease the entire 3,000-acre base to the community upon closure. In the 12 years since, many of the same sights and sounds remain. Cars and trucks stream through the entrances, planes roar off the runway and volleys of gun fire echo through the firing range.

McClellan is now home to more than 240 businesses and has become haven for public safety organizations. Included among those is the Sacramento City Fire Department, AmeriCorps, the U.S Coast Guard, Caltrans, Los Rios Community College District and the Sacramento Joint Power Authority, which operates Northern California Regional Public Safety Training Center.

"Many of the amenities at former bases like McClellan lend themselves very well to reuse by public safety entities," said Steve Mayer, Air Force Civil Engineer Center environmental coordinator at McClellan. "It's great to see places like the fire training area and the shooting range continue to be put to good use by local organizations."

On the west side of the base, the Regional Public Safety Training Center is located on approximately 40 acres of property provided by the Air Force to the Joint Power Authority as part of the re-utilization of McClellan. Law enforcement agencies from throughout California conduct a variety of training exercises at the unique facility, which includes a tactical village, shoot house and a firing range.

"This is a unique facility in the region because it has all of these different training venues in such close proximity," Robert Mueller, range master for the JPA and the Sacramento Police Department. "We are centrally located and in this region you don't find all of these different types of training venues under one roof."

Nearby, the former base fire training center is now being used by a number of local firefighting agencies. Rope rescue, academy events, search and rescue training as well as other fire training exercises are conducted on and around a three-story brick structure, a remnant of past Air Force fire training activities.

"McClellan is a really good fit for the Sacramento Fire Department mainly because of its location," said David Kevin, a captain with the Sacramento Fire Department. "It's a cost savings for the city, so it is very beneficial. It works out real well for us and having some space for future growth is also advantageous."

On the north side of the base, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Pacific Region Campus occupies barracks that were once home to aviators and airmen.

Since its arrival in 2001, AmeriCorps' McClellan campus, which can house up to 320 members, has transitioned smoothly into a readymade facility, a transition made possible by a solid relationship with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and McClellan Business Park.

AmeriCorps is a federal government program that engages adults 18-24 years old in intensive community service work that specializes in training to conduct community and disaster response services.

The only remaining military aviation unit at the McClellan airfield is the U.S. Coast Guard, which operates an air station at former base. The air station is home to four HC-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircraft and the 189 personnel assigned to the unit.

Flight crews cover a 3.8 million square mile expanse of the Pacific Ocean including north to the U.S./Canadian border, south to the Galapagos Islands and westward halfway to Hawaii.

"Our flight crews perform homeland security patrols, long range search and rescue, migrant interdiction and drug interdiction as well as a number of other enforcement missions," said Lt. Callan Robbins, a Coast Guard pilot at the air station. "This air station is the only Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft unit on the West Coast."

The California Department of Transportation operates its Maintenance Equipment and Training Academy at the south end of the former base. The facility provides new employees with training on a variety of heavy equipment.

McClellan's closure marked the end of one era and the beginning of another as the former base began its conversion from an active military base to a vital business park. Public safety organizations have been a driving force behind the former base's rapid return to prominence as an economic mainstay in the region.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, or AFCEC, is responsible for completing environmental remediation and transfer of 40 former Air Force installations across the United States under the BRAC program. Since the first BRAC in 1988, the Air Force has transferred more than 116 square miles of land, an area twice the size of Washington, D.C., back to local communities for public use.