The U.S. state of South Dakota is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base – and the 28th Bomb Wing. The wing is part of 12th Air Force, and is overseen by Air Combat Command. The base came into being as Rapid City Army Air Base in 1941. Between 1946 and 1953 – when it became Ellsworth Air Force Base – it went through five name changes. The final name change was to honor Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth. He died when his plane – an RB-36 Peacemaker – crashed while on a training flight.
Ellsworth is situated on the northern side of the city of Box Elder, and roughly 10 miles from Rapid City. The base sits amid the breathtaking Black Hills, and it operates on Mountain Standard Time.
Mission & Units
Ellsworth has a fleet of bombers: The Lancer B-1Bs. As the name of the unit suggests, the 28th Bomb Wing bombs enemy targets. The wing’s mission is to insure the readiness of a purposeful, battle-ready cadre of fighter pilots and bombers that can immediately and effectively respond to global situations.
As the host unit, the 28th Bomb Wing is supported by four other units: The 28th Operations Group, the 28th Maintenance Group, the 28th Mission Support Group and the 28th Medical Group.
Housing / Dormitories
Rushmore Heights and Prairie View Estates are the two major areas of housing on the base. There are 283 units, and they house a mix of personnel from junior enlisted to senior officers.
The Department of Defense sponsors a website to help military personnel secure off-base housing. The Automated Housing Referral Network – AHRN – makes for a speedier and easier house-searching process. Members can register at the website even before making their permanent change of station, or PCS, move. Once they are registered, military members can view all of the properties that are available in the communities close to Ellsworth AFB. It is a particularly useful resource because only currently-available rentals are listed. Additionally, the website allows troops to contact realtors and property owners directly, and they can also receive travel directions to visit the properties.
However, it is important for service personnel to remember that AFI 32-6001 states that they must report to the office of the base’s Military Family Housing prior to renting, leasing or purchasing off-base properties.
On a note of caution: It is extremely difficult for pet owners to secure accommodations in the area, and when it is possible there are extra charges involved, usually monthly fees.
There are six dormitories on the base, and they are single-occupancy only. Each dormitory has a kitchen, game room, four TV rooms and a laundry room. Whenever possible, troops from each of the five units on base are grouped together within the same dormitory.
Children who live on base or in Box Elder may attend schools in the Douglas Public School District. Those who live in Rapid City or its immediate surroundings can enroll in the Rapid City Area Schools District.
The base is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and outdoor recreational opportunities are numerous. Camping, hunting, hiking, water-skiing, boating and fishing are just some of the activities that can be enjoyed. Places to visit include the Badlands, Crazy Horse Memorial, Fort Meade and Custer State Park.
The South Dakota Air and Space Museum is right outside the base. Each summer, visitors to the museum can choose to take a bus tour of the base. The tour includes a stop at the Training Launch Facility for the Minuteman missile.