U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet
HISTORY OF CREECH AIR FORCE BASE
Today, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is the home to the "Hunters" of the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, and the Joint Unmanned Aircraft System Center of Excellence. The base also hosts the operations of the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron, and 98th Southern Ranges Support Squadron.
The installation first came into use as a military training camp on January 14, 1942. The base was established in the aftermath of the devastating December 7, 1941, aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, a horrific event that thrust America and a newly organized US Army Air Forces into World War II. Answering the call to duty, preparing Airmen for aerial combat, and an unwavering service have remained recurring elements of the installation's tradition and mission for nearly seven decades.
Built one mile northwest of the community of Indian Springs, Nev., and about 35 miles northwest of the city of Las Vegas, Nev., the camp was named the Indian Springs Airport. The Army had contracted for regular facilities by the end of 1942, and by February 1943 the camp was used as a divert field and as a base for air-to-air gunnery training. Supporting B-17s and T-6s until March 1946, the base went into stand-by status with maintenance by a small housekeeping staff. As part of the post-war drawdown, both Indian Springs Airport and Las Vegas Army Air Field (now Nellis AFB) were inactivated in January 1947.
Along with Las Vegas Army Air Field, Indian Springs Airport reopened in January 1948 following the birth of an Independent Air Force and the onset of the Cold War. Assigned to Air Training Command, the field was subsequently redesignated Indian Springs AFB and gained its first permanently assigned Air Force unit in 1950. A renewal of airpower innovation and tactics in the service during the Korean War left its mark on the base. Made into an auxiliary field in August 1951, the base transferred to the Air Research and Development Command in July 1952, and realigned under the Air Force Special Weapons Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly after the 3600th Air Demonstration Team "Thunderbirds" moved to Nellis AFB in June 1953, the Indian Springs airfield became their primary air demonstration practice site.
In 1961, control of the base at Indian Springs shifted to Tactical Air Command. The installation's myriad of roles throughout the 20th century belied its size and resources. A successive string of host and tenant organizations, ranging from groups to detachments, provided support to on- and off-site missions. Critical but little known responsibilities included support to the Continental Nuclear Test Program and service as a key staging base for the delivery of testing materials to the Soviet Union for joint verification tests. The base's proximity to such remote but essential locations led to the arrival of its most distinguished visitor on December 8, 1962, as President John F. Kennedy arrived at Indian Springs AFB before proceeding by helicopter to the Nevada Test Site for an inspection of those facilities.
During this era the base had two enduring and well known roles. It provided range maintenance for sections of the huge Nellis Test and Training Range, a job carried out by the civil engineers of the 57th Combat Support Squadron, a key unit assigned to the base. Concurrently, it served as a recurring host base for deployments by Airmen and aviators from all the services in search of realistic, less constrained field training. Despite these vital and persistent contributions to critical missions and the development of air superiority, the base acquired no operational mission of its own. A detachment of UH-1n helicopters in the 1970s and 1980s constituted the only aircraft unit assigned to the installation. With no fanfare, the Air Force officially redesignated the base from Indian Springs AFB to Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field.
Following the inactivation of Tactical Air Command in 1992, Indian Springs AFAF was assigned to the new Air Combat Command. In a defining moment of history, a MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft system conducted the first successful firing of a Hellfire missile on the Nellis Air Force Range in February 2001. This transformation of a reconnaissance platform into an offensive weapon would, in a few short years, transform Indian Springs from a center of support to a center of operations with a reach far beyond the horizons of the vast Nevada desert.
On June 20, 2005, with the transfer of the unmanned aviation mission to Indian Springs underway, the US Air Force redesignated Indian Springs AFAF as Creech Air Force Base in honor of General Wilbur L. Creech. Naming the installation for General Creech, commander of Tactical Air Command from 1978 to 1984, and a veteran of more than 275 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam, was all the more fitting given his unofficial title as the "father of the Thunderbirds." A fearless pioneer, and commander of the Skyblazers Aerial Demonstration team that preceded the Thunderbirds, General Creech became a Thunderbird pilot and senior mentor.
The shifting of a global remotely piloted aviation mission to Creech AFB to include aircrew training, and the supporting, directing, and coordination of combat sorties halfway across the world has continued to the present. On November 9, 2006, the Air Force activated the 42d Attack Squadron at Creech to operate the next stage in remotely piloted aircraft development, the MQ-9 Reaper. The service also provided for direct leadership of these missions on May 1, 2007, with the activation of the 432d Wing at Creech. Finally, the full spectrum of these operations was formally recognized when the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing was activated at Creech on May 15, 2008.
Today Creech continues to serve as the aerial demonstration training site of the Thunderbirds, and to play a major role in ongoing Overseas Contingency Operations as the home base of the Predator and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft systems which fly daily missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
(Current as of February 2009)