Fort Richardson is a United States Army base near the city of Anchorage, Alaska. It is the largest US base in Alaska and the hub of a network of bases in the area that includes Fort Greeley and Fort Wainwright. The base is home to the US Army Law Enforcement Command, the 50th Signal Battalion and the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, all of which help make up the large population of over 10,000 active duty and reserve soldiers.
Fort Richardson sprawls over 25,000 acres, a majority of which is Alaskan wilderness. The rugged terrain of the base is marked by steep peaks, lakes, glaciers and rivers. This vast expanse allows the base to have a number of testing grounds and live fire training areas. Chugach State Park marks the eastern and southern borders of the base and the western border is marked by the city of Anchorage and Elmendorf Air Force Base. The northern border of the base is defined by the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet and Eagle Bay.
Construction of Fort Richardson began in 1940 with the intention of being a major airfield for the Army Air Corps. The airfield was officially opened in August of the same year and in November, was designated as Fort Richardson by the United States War Department. Thought the next several decades that air presence at Fort Richardson slowly shifted to surrounding installations and the base focused more on Army ground roles. In 1994 Fort Richardson was designated as the headquarters for United States Army Command, Alaska (USARAK), which is tasked with protecting United States interests in the regions of Asia and the Pacific.
Wintertime temperatures in the area around Fort Richardson can range from 80 degrees below zero to 40 degrees. Soldiers stationed at Fort Richardson are required to learn and master unique skills that are taught in few other places. Winter survival, tundra crossing, river lining, snow and glacier travel, snow combat and cold weather vehicle operation are all part of the normal training program at the base.
Fort Richardson works in close conjunction with the nearby Elmendorf AFB. This large United States Air Force installation, in combination with Fort Richardson, make up Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission combined the two bases, making Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson one of only 12 joint branch bases in the United States Armed Forces. Prior to the combining, both bases operated entirely independent of each other, but now share assets and resources.
Fort Richardson maintains a large contingent of on post housing for service members and their families. The base has 43 bachelor living units, 117 living units for single officers and 1,258 units for enlisted soldiers and their families. Housing is almost always available immediately for incoming soldiers, however Fort Richardson has a large waiting list for incoming soldiers needing a house larger than 4 bedrooms. Waiting times of 6 to 9 months are common.
Temporary lodging is available for those solider that are on a waiting list at The Igloo, which contains 92 rooms across 6 buildings. Each guest room is divided into multi bedroom suites for family use. All guest rooms contain full amenities and appliances to give incoming families all the comforts of home while awaiting more permanent housing. The base also maintains a full range of recreational facilities for use by soldiers and their families.
Fort Richardson maintains a population of over 10,000 service members and their families. To make life as comfortable as possible, the base takes every step to cater to needs. Fort Richardson has a large commissary and PX that offers groceries and household goods at discounted prices from those available to the general public. The base also has a smaller shopping area, a mall, and several small convenience stores.
Recreational and leisure facilities are wide ranging as well. Fort Richardson boasts a bowling alley, several gyms, tennis courts, golf courses, pools and rents equipment of fishing and other outdoor facilities. There is also and arts and crafts facility, library and an auto hobby shop where soldiers can work on their own vehicles. All of these facilities are open to soldiers and their family and a few are open to the general public.
Fort Richardson works in conjunction with the Anchorage School District to operate 2 elementary schools on the base. Middle and high school students have to attend school in the surrounding community, however transportation services are available. Fort Richardson also provides options for home schooling and charter schools in addition to facilities and services for special education students from ages 3 through 21.
The Fort Richardson Child Development Center has the ability to care for 200 children and provides full day child care for children form ages of 6 weeks up to 5 years. All Fort Richardson child care facilities are certified by the Department of The Army and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Important Places within and Near Fort Richardson
The Fort Richardson Youth Center provides a play area for all on base children, including slides, a climbing experience and a track ride, all in a simulated woodland area.
Moose Run Golf Course is full 18 hole golf course found within Fort Richardson. The medium length layout provides a great platform for golfers of any skill.
Artic Valley Ski Trail near Chugach State Park offers discounts to Fort Richardson service members, lift tickets are available for purchase at recreation facilities within the base.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a nearby institution for the display and education of the public about the native peoples of Alaska. The center is billed as the foremost authority on the early culture and life in Alaska.