By June C. Hussey
Southern Arizona is dotted with several key military installations. These contribute enormously to our economy and communities in numerous, measurable ways.
An economic impact study published in 2017 by The Maguire Company credited Arizona’s many military installations for contributing $11.5 billion annually to the Arizona economy. The study included six military installations – Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Luke Air Force Base, in Glendale, U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma and the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff along with Arizona’s national guard facilities – the 162nd Air National Guard Wing in Tucson, the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Marana, the 161st Air National Guard Refueling Wing in Phoenix, and the Army National Guard Papago Park.
The report also stated that Arizona receives about $15.3 billion in federal defense dollars annually, ranking it eighth among the 50 states. That is roughly 2.9% of total U.S. defense spending, or about $2,321 per Arizona resident.
A look at the region’s military installations and their economic impacts, according to the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson – $2.6 billion
Spanning 10,530 acres, 505 buildings, 1,173 homes and a 13,643 foot runway, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base generates a $2.6 billion impact annually.
DM supports and sustains 34 mission partners from across the federal government. It is home to cross-functional and total-force mission sets conducted by a variety of agencies, including: the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, the 55th Electronic Combat Group, the 214th Attack Group, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 12th Air Force headquarters and the U.S. Space Force.
The base also hosts the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, which provides critical storage, maintenance and regeneration capabilities for the entire Department of Defense and other federal agencies and allied nations.
DM currently employs about 11,000 airmen, of which 6,000 are active duty, with 1,850 reserve/guard and 2,860 civilian employee. Approximately 71% of personnel live off base. An estimated 4,200 indirect jobs are created by this military installation, a value of $200 million to the local economy. And the benefits don’t end when the servicemen’s tour of duty ends. More than 18,000 retired service members live within 30 miles of metro Tucson, further contributing to the city’s economic output.
162nd Fighter Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, Tucson – $383.6 million
Of the 54 Air National Guard installations in the U.S and its territories, the second largest one is the 162nd Wing. Its mission is two-fold: To train domestic and foreign pilots (currently of F-16 fighter jets–the workhorses of the Air Force), and to serve as an interceptor unit responsible for the defense of airspace on our continent.
The 162nd Wing occupies 92 acres near Tucson International Airport and since 1969, has graduated more than 7,600 fighter pilots.
The Wing has trained pilots from 25 countries while developing strategic partnerships and building strong international relationships.
Fort Huachuca U.S. Army, Sierra Vista – $2.86 billion
Arizona’s oldest military outpost, Fort Huachuca is a U.S. Army installation that trains more than 9,000 students year and at any given time, is host to over 5,600 military, 8,000 civilians and more than 11,000 family members.
Established on Mar. 3, 1877, Fort Huachuca has a rich frontier history dating back to the Indian Wars and was declared a national monument in 1976. The installation is the largest employer in Cochise County and lies about 15 miles north of the Mexican border. It comprises 946 square miles of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles of protected ranges.
Fort Huachuca is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command and more than 48 supported tenants that represent a diverse, multi-functional population.
Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma – $877.6 million
The Marine Corps’ top aviation training base, Yuma’s Marine Corps Air Station, provides aviation ranges, support facilities and services to bolster mission capabilities and combat readiness.
With access to more than one million acres of bombing and aviation training ranges, MCAS Yuma supports 80% of the Corps’ air-to-ground aviation training. In its five square miles in southeastern Arizona, it hosts roughly 70 aviation units, bringing an average of 600 aircraft and 14,000 personnel for training throughout the year.
Its tenants include Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1, Marine Aircraft Group 13, Marine Air Control Squadron 1, Marine Fighter Training Squadron 40 and Combat Logistics Company 16.
Yuma Proving Ground U.S. Army, Yuma – $1.12 billion
Yuma County’s top civilian employer with some 2,000 civilian personnel, the Yuma Proving Ground is the U.S. Army’s premier test center and serves at the forefront of the Army’s modernization strategies. It supports six of the Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams that are building the future force.
Yuma Proving Ground, which encompasses 1,300 square miles, is the host site of the annual Project Convergence capstone event, the largest capabilities demonstration in the Army. Recently, the Yuma Proving Ground has served as the backdrop for cutting-edge drone technology demonstrations. It’s clear, stable air and dry climate make the proving ground one of the best test ranges.
Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Marana – $147.4 million
Established in 1986, the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, or Western Army Aviation Training Site, is located on the Silverbell Heliport in the privately owned Pinal Airpark—one of the world’s largest storage facilities for non-military aircraft.
WAATS, which lies adjacent to Marana, is managed by the Arizona Army National Guard and is one of the Army’s premier aviation training locations for attack and scout helicopters. It’s also home to a state-of-the-art flight simulator complex.
Primarily a training facility for the Army National Guard, WAATS trains personnel from all three arms of the U.S. Army, including the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as well as allied countries in Europe and Asia.