Hanscom Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Installation located approximately two miles from Bedford, Massachusetts. The base is named for Laurence G. Hanscom, a local Worcester pilot and reporter who was killed in a plane crash in 1941. Hanscom Air Force Base is a unique blend of both civilian and military operations. The base falls under control of Air Force Material Command but is also used by civilians as Hanscom Field. Also unique for a US Air Force Base, Hanscome doesn’t deal with Air Force flight operations. Rather, the base focuses entirely on research and electronic systems.
Hanscom Air Force Base began life as Bedford Airfield and was one of a handful of small US airfields that dotted the east coast in the pre-World War II days. In the summer of 1941 the authorization was given to build a larger airfield at the location. Immediately following the US entrance into World War II, the US War Department took over Bedford Airfield and it became home to the US Army Air Corps 85th Fighter Squadron. Throughout the course of World War II the base played host to over 100 planes and hundreds of US Army Air Corps pilots.
As World War II drew to a close, the US Military began to eye Bedford Field for other uses. The base began working closely with radar and radio researchers and stations. The military built another base, Cambridge Field Station, adjacent to Bedford Field with the intention of recruiting and training experts in the field of radio and radar operations. Cambridge Field Station and Bedford Field went through several rounds of development with the Electronics Systems Center, SAGE and the Lincoln Lab. After the establishment of the US Air Force, the base was transferred from command of the Army to the Air Force and became Hanscom Air Force Base.
Over the next several decades Hanscome Air Force Base experienced several rounds of cutbacks and budget shortfalls. Housing projects were canceled and plans for further expansion were scrapped. 163 buildings were taken down and housing at the base became a premium. Hanscome Air Force Base played a vital role in the Gulf War operations of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but that was not enough to save it from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1994. The base was slated for closure, but because of a few lucky breaks and support from the local community it was able stay alive. Local advocates like Bruce Sundlun, John W. Marchetti, Mark C. Lee and James W. Stansberry were able to keep the base alive and help integrate it into civilian use.
Today, Hanscom Air Force Base is home to the 66th Air Base Group, which is tasked with supporting Air Force operations worldwide. The Electronic Systems Center provides much of this support. The base also plays host to tenant units and offices including the Hanscom Education Center, Retirees Office and Band of Liberty.
Incoming Airmen to Hanscom Air Force Base should first contact the base housing office and request a sponsor. The same office will provide a housing application that must be filled out in order to be eligible for on base housing.