(Current as of June 2012) Today, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is the home to the famed “Hunters” of the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. The base also hosts the operations of the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron, and those of the Air Force Reserve’s 78th Reconnaissance Squadron and Nevada Air National Guard’s 232d Operations Squadron.
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. Initially a “tent city” military training camp, in March 1942 efforts began to construct more permanent fixed facilities. In the seven decades since, the installation’s tradition and missions have continued to focus on answering the first call to duty–preparing Airmen for direct combat and support in an unwavering service to the nation.
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. After the 3600th Air Demonstration Team “Thunderbirds” moved to Nellis AFB in June 1956, the Indian Springs airfield became their primary air demonstration practice site.
In 1961, control of the installation at Indian Springs shifted to Tactical Air Command. The base’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. 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 singular 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 fell under the new Air Combat Command. A new era began on December 13, 1996, with the first flight of the RQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft at the airfield. In a defining moment of history, on the Nellis AFB Range, the Predator conducted the first successful firing of a Hellfire missile 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 reaching far beyond the horizons of the Nevada desert.
On June 20, 2005, with the transfer of the remotely piloted aviation mission to Indian Springs growing rapidly, the U.S. Air Force redesignated Indian Springs AFAF as Creech AFB in honor of Gen. 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, continues to the present. On March 13, 2007, the arrival of the first MQ-9 Reaper at Creech marked another milestone in the base’s growing fleet of remotely piloted aircraft. The U.S. Air Force provided for direct leadership of these missions on May 1, 2007, with the activation of the 432d Wing at Creech. Activation of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech on May 15, 2008 formally recognized the full spectrum of these operations.
Today Creech continues to serve as the aerial demonstration training site of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, and to engage in daily Overseas Contingency Operations as the home base of remotely piloted aircraft systems which fly missions across the globe.