Air Force Bases

Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado

Named Buckley Field after 1st Lt. John Harold Buckley, a World War I flier from Longmont, Colo., who was shot down on a strafing mission behind German lines during the third day of the Argonne offensive, the base has a long and celebrated history.

The increased involvement of the United States in the war in 1941 resulted in plans to enlarge Lowry Army Air Field. A 5,740-acre site was selected and eventually purchased by the City and County of Denver and donated to the Department of the Army in early 1941 to satisfy the growing need for military strength. 

A contract for architectural and engineering services was awarded in April 1942 and construction of Buckley Field began the following month. The Army Air Corps Technical School, offering B-17 and B-24 bombardier and armor training, was opened July 1 with Brig. Gen. L.A. Lawson, commanding.

At an original cost of $7.5 million, base facilities included streets, runways, more than 700 structures, 10 water wells, a water distribution system, a sewage collection and treatment system, electrical plant, communication system, coal-fired steam heating plant and 16,800 feet of railroad track.

The ever-present need for wartime military personnel required additional basic training sites. In 1943, three of these sites were opened at the Lowry Bombing Range under Buckley's command.

As the Army Air Corps approached full strength in 1944, the additional training requirements diminished, bringing about a gradual decline in personnel throughout 1945. When the war finally ended, Buckley became an auxiliary field for Lowry, which in turn, transferred it to the Colorado Air National Guard in 1946.

But the Air Guard's first-term ownership quickly came to an end when the Department of the Navy took charge in 1947, renaming the installation Naval Air Station-Denver, Colo.

Nearly 12 years later, the Navy decommissioned Denver's Naval Air Station on June 30, 1959, and returned the installation back to the Air Force, which licensed it to the state of Colorado.

On April 18, 1960, the installation took on a new, yet familiar name, Buckley Air National Guard Base, and became the first stand alone Air National Guard base in the United States. For the next 40 years, the Air National Guard would maintain Buckley as an Air National Guard installation.

In October of 2000, Buckley once again changed hands. This time it would be back to the United States Air Force as the 821st Space Group became the host unit and the Secretary of the Air Force renamed the facility Buckley Air Force Base.

Just a year later, the 460th Air Base Wing, 14th Air Force's (Air Force Space Command) newest wing, stood up and assumed host duties of the base, and three years later, in August 2004, the 460th Air Base Wing became the 460th Space Wing.

In addition to its active duty Air Force population, the 3,897-acre military base hosts Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard and National Guard and Reserve personnel. More than 12,000 military (including active duty, Guard and reserve), civilians and contractors work at the installation.

Buckley has the only military runway, and the only airfield licensed to operate tactical aircraft loaded with munitions within a 410 mile radius of Denver. The base also employs a forward arresting system that can stop a high-powered military jet fighter that has declared an in-flight emergency.

Buckley's most apparent feature is six large geodesic domes that can be viewed clearly from many points throughout the Denver-metro area. The domes were built by the Air Force beginning in 1970, to shelter a multi-million dollar communications center.

Buckley AFB has grown and added many badly-needed facilities to support all Buckley personnel. Since 2001 the 460th Space Wing has opened one the largest commissary and base exchange complexes in the Air Force, a world-class fitness center, and two new enlisted dorms. As the wing and base continue growing, a family housing is currently being constructed along with numerous other quality of life and mission essential projects that are dramatically changing Buckley's landscape.

Chronology of Buckley Air Force Base 

April 1, 1942: Opened as an auxiliary airfield for Lowry Army Airfield 

July 1, 1942: Activated and begins operations as Army Air Corp munitions training base 

Dec. 20, 1946: Acquired by right of permit and renamed Buckley Field 

Sept. 28, 1947: Transferred to US Navy, renamed Naval Air Station - Denver 

Dec. 1, 1950: Brigadier General Joseph C. Moffitt, the first Air National Guard General to command an active duty unit during the Korean War

July 1953: Buckley's units first Air National Guard state to acquire jet aircraft 

Nov. 1953: "Minute Men" first Air National Guard precision aerial flying team 

Oct. 1956: National Guard Bureau designates "Minute Men", the official Air National Guard demonstration team 

June 30, 1959: Secretary of the Air Force licenses Naval Air Station-Denver to the State of Colorado 

July 1959:  "Minute Men" disbanded 

April 18, 1960: The Air Force officially designates the base, Buckley Air National Guard Base, the first stand-alone Air National Guard base in the nation

April 30, 1968: Units from Buckley become the first guard units to be sent to a combat zone since WWII 

May 1969: Construction begins on the Aerospace Data Facility 

March 1973: The first POWs released from Vietnam arrive at Buckley
May 1975: Buckley's 140th Tactical Fighter Wing becomes the first guard unit to achieve combat readiness status with the A-7D 

July 1976: COANG assists in the aftermath of the Big Thompson flood. 

Sept. 1979: Buckley's entire 140th Fighter Wing deploys to take part in the "Coronet Rider" NATO exercise in Turkey. 

Sept. 1981: At the USAF "Gunsmoke" competition, a team from the 140th took the honor as the Top Team at the USAF-wide air to ground gunnery meet. 

Aug. 1983: On its' way to the Denver Mint over $1.3 billion of gold bullion is shipped through Buckley

Dec. 1985: Buckley hosted the nuclear, biological, and chemical center operations course. First time this NATO course is held outside Europe

Oct. 1987: Captain Dean McDavid takes first place at the "Gunsmoke" competition in the A-7 Corsair division 

Aug. 1990: Units and personnel from the COANG deploy in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM 

Nov. 1993: Units and personnel from the COANG deploy in support of Operation PROVIDE COMFORT at Incirlik AB, Turkey. Deployment ends Sept. 1994 

March 1995: Units and personnel participated in the joint Australian and U.S. exercise termed Operation DOWN UNDER. This exercise was held in Australia.
April 1995: Again, Units and personnel from the COANG deploy in support of Operation PROVIDE COMFORT at Incirlik AB, Turkey. 

June 1996: Units and personnel from the COANG deploy in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Kuwait. 

Jan. 1998: Units and personnel from the COANG deploy supporting Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Kuwait. 

Oct. 1, 2000 Air Force Space Command assumes responsibility of Buckley. Buckley Air National Guard base redesignated as Buckley Air Force Base. 

Oct. 2001: Aircraft and personnel from COANG's 140 FW deploy supporting Operation NORTHERN WATCH at Incirlik AB, Turkey. The deployment ended in December. 

Sept. 11, 2001: Aircraft and personnel from COANG's 140 FW began support Operation NOBLE EAGLE. Flying CAP missions, this support continues to this day. 

Sept. 11, 2001: COANG's aircraft and personnel deploy to location world-wide supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. These missions continue to this day. 

Feb. 5, 2003: Units from the COANG deploy in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and later participate in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 

May 2004: Units from the COANG deploy in support continuing missions supporting Operation IRAQI FREEDOM