Elgin Air Force Base is a Untied States Air Force installation located in Okaloosa County, Florida. The 463, 128 acre base sits three miles from Valparaiso and Niceville. A short distance to the west lies the city of Fort Walton Beach. The 96th Air Base Wing, under supervision of the Air Force Material Command, is responsible for control of the base. The 96th Wing is tasked with supporting air deployment missions worldwide with ordinance and weaponry support. This mission is complemented by another resident unit, the 46th Test Wing.
The 46th Test Wing is responsible for the testing and evaluation for Air Force guidance systems, bombs, weapons systems and missiles. Elgin AFB is perfect for this role due to the 130,000 square miles of ocean airspace at its disposal. Even the most destructive of weapons systems can be tested safely.
Elgin Air Force Base also plays host to the a few high level training programs. The Navy School of Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) is located at the base as is the area for the final phase of Army Ranger training with the 6th Ranger Battalion.
Elgin Air Force Base was originally established as the Valparaiso Bombing and Gunnery Base in 1935. The base was an Army Air Corps training facility for seven years. In 1942, the base shifted roles and became an Army Air Corps munitions center and proving ground. When the United States Air Force became its own branch after World War II, the base was renamed to Elgin Air Force Base.
The base was tasked with developing, handling and testing missiles in response to Cold War Soviet threats. The base became the center of new missile technology and development. Over the next several years Elgin AFB established ten separate fields for the testing of new systems of flight and training maneuvers. All ten of these fields are still in use today and can be found around the base. Each of the fields bears the name of US War Hero’s from across the centuries.
Mission and Roles
Elgin AFB is one of three produce centers under command of the United States Air Force Material Command and home station for the AAC (Air Armament Center). The AAC is the organization tasked with deployment, testing, acquisition, development and sustainment of all Air Force weapons delivered to targets via the air.
Other roles of Elgin AFB include planning and conducting all tests of Air Force guidance and navigation systems, usually over open water. It also tests air armament systems and command control systems used by the United States and its allies. Elgin AFB is the central point for all armaments and munitions belonging to US Air Force aircraft and where the most advanced aircraft arms systems are handled.
The AAC handles all phases of Air Force armament including but not limited to; Technology planning, operational performance, requirements definition, materials acquisition, business management, systems management, scientific research, filed support and engineering and customer support. Programs managed by the Air Armament Center include the Small Diameter Bomb, Joint Direct Attack Monition, HARM Targeting System, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Miniature Air Launched Decoy, and the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile.
Elgin Air Force base is home several major US Air Force units. In addition to the Air Armament Center (AAC), the base is home to several tenant and permanent units. These units include;
The 308th Armament Systems Wing
The 96th Air Base Wing: Responsible for supporting the Air Armament Center with services that a normal city or military post would provide.
7th Special Forces Group: Provides operational capabilities in the Latin America region.
53rd Wing: Tests all unmanned aircraft, bombers, fighters and associated weapons systems.
46th Test Wing: Evaluates and tests air delivered weapons in addition to guidance and navigation systems. It also tests Air Force Special Operations Command systems in addition to Command and Control systems.
33rd Fighter Wing: Made up of the 60th Fighter Squadron and the 58th Fighter Squadron.
Elgin Air Force Base also plays host to smaller units like the 728th Air Control Squadron, the largest squadron of its kind in the United States Air Force, the Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team, the 919th Special Operations Wing (919 SOW), 6th Ranger Training Battalion, Naval School of Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) (jointly staffed by Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy personnel), the 20th Space Control Squadron and AFOTEC, the Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center.
On post housing is available for all airmen and service members from E1 though General Grade Officer. There are no areas of the base reserved for rank, meaning the housing is completely mixed. It is entirely possible for an E1 or E2 to be living next door to a full bird Colonel. This creates a unique, but close knit dynamic on the base. There is a waiting list for the base housing (which includes a stove and refrigerator). There are 2,359 housing units available on base, ranging from two to four bedroom.
Elgin Air Force Base has no on post schools. There are however four elementary schools, two high schools and a middle school located near the base. There are multiple private and religious schooling options available as well. Transportation for students to and from the base is available.
Medical and Dental Care
Elgin Regional Medical Center is one of the most well respected and busiest medical facilities in the United States Air Force. Other installations in the area regularly send patients to Elgin for further treatment. The clinic has a 62 chair dental facility and four separate medical wings. Facilities are available for obstetrics, psychiatric admissions, and basic medical and surgical services.
The Elgin AFB PX and commissary has over 45,000 square feet of shopping space and groceries. The commissary offers visitors a deli, lunch bar, bakery and specialty foods section.
The PX has 14 retail stores in addition to the main shopping area. It’s set up as a small mall, with a food court, barber shop, beauty salon and optical provider. Additionally, there are two smaller shopping centers on the base.
Climate and Area
The area around Elgin Air Force Base is classified as subtropical humid. Annual rainfall can be up to 60 inches, however most days are sunny and humid. With beautiful beaches nearby and exceptional weather, many welcome packets are marked with “welcome to paradise”.