In 2010, as the result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), Fort Lewis, was merged with McChord Air Force Base to create Joint Base Lewis- McChord, also referred to as JBLM. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is found in the central western Puget Sound area of Washington State, falling within both Thurston and Pierce County. The base is approximately 14 miles from east of Olympia and 12 miles south of Tacoma. JBLM is also a short drive to Mount Rainer National Park and Snoqualmie National Forest.
Fort Lewis began life as Camp Lewis after congressional approval in 1916. Named for the famed explorer Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and subsequent Louisiana Purchase, the base first opened in 1917. The initial occupants were Army recruits that were being trained for the front lines of combat in World War I.
Shortly after its initial mission of training Army recruits the base was rechristened as Fort Lewis and in 1930 an air installation was built.
The Army Airfield known as Tacoma Field existed under the control of an Army Commander for 10 years until, in 1940 it was renamed for a former Chief in Headquarters Army Air Corps, Colonel William McChord. McChord Field remained under command of the Army until 1947 when the United States Air Force was established. At that time, the Department of The Army relinquished control of McChord Field to the Air Force and the base was renamed McChord Air Force Base.
Fort Lewis continued to operate autonomously for 63 years under control of the Army while nearby McChord AFB continued as a U.S. Air Force installation. In 2010 the bases were merged into one of 12 joint bases worldwide. The base is jointly commanded by both Army and Air Force personnel at the command and enlisted level.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord serves as both a training and mobilization center for multiple components of the U.S. Armed Forces. The strategic placement of the base on the west coast allows it serve multiple roles for all facets of the armed services, particularly in the Pacific region. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is home to several major units of the Air Force and Army Including US Pacific Command Headquarters, I Corps, the 7th Infantry Division, 62nd Airlift Wing, 446th Airlift Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command. The base is also home to several detachments of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps along with several guard and reserve units.
In addition to the main training areas of the base JBLM is home to two additional components. Yakima Training Center, also known at YTC is a full service training facility used by all branches of the armed services. The terrain of the area is very similar to Afghanistan and is used for training with armor, artillery, infantry and aircraft.
The second component of the base is an area for the Washington Air National Guard. An area directly adjacent to the main post, Camp Murray, serves as the headquarters for the Washington Air National Guard and is used as a training and muster area.
Land & Population
Joint Base Lewis-McChord covers 647 square miles with 505 square miles of the area being occupied by the Yakima Training Center. The current base population is 109,300 personnel which reflects a mixed population of active duty service members, reserve and National Guard personnel, family members, support staff and civilian employees.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord maintains 4600 single, duplex and multifamily housing units for base personnel. There are however plans to expand the number of on base housing units. The base Family Service office works with service member families and the local community to find suitable housing in the area if on post housing is not available.
There are currently no schools of any level at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Children of service members must register and attend schools in the surrounding local community. There are however bus and transportation services available for all children.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the most requested duty stations in the U.S. Armed Forces. It provides all the amenities of local in town living and is conveniently mapped out within the installation. There are three commissaries and shopping centers with full PXs’. The shopping centers offer dine in restaurants and fast food options, a variety of stores, banking, dry cleaning, gas stations, movie theaters and auto repair.
Religious facilities are available for Jewish, Catholic, Christian and Protestant denominations with several other denominations being found near the base. Army Community Services and the office of Family and Soldier Morale assist with any special needs of the base residents.
Welfare and Recreation centers provide several options for base personnel and their families.
Options include ice skating, golf courses, gyms, pools, travel services and a campground with cabins and RV’s for rent. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is also home to an Army and Air Museum.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is not open to public. Access to the base requires a current Department of Defense ID or a visitors pass from the main office. The base is however open to the public in May for the annual Armed Forces Weekend.