MacDill Air force Base has become the premier military installation in the military history of Tampa Bay. This is no small feat given the many threats of closure due to budgetary cuts within the military since 1993’s Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The story of MacDill begins with its commissioning on April 16, 1941 as a bomber training command for pilots heading into World War II’s theatre of operations throughout Europe. From 1941 through to 1962 MacDill had assumed the commands of bomber pilot training to strategic air command during the “Cold War” period with Russia and its eastern bloc allies. As MacDill faced its first major challenge in a possible base closure it was its proximity Cuba during the “Cuban Missile Crises” that saved it from this fate. Eventually, MacDill would shed its Strategic Air Command mission to take on fighter commands which would become its mainstay well into 1992. In this capacity MacDill is most fondly remembered as the sounds of F-4 Phantoms and later F-16 Fighting Falcons would traverse the skies over Tampa Bay on a daily basis. Today however, MacDill has taken on a varied command structure in its continual evolution a front line command in what has now become a global operations headquarters inter linked with other commands both old and new around the world. It is currently home to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), U.S. Naval Reserve Command Tampa, as well as its primary mission of commanding the 6th Air Mobility Wing and the 927th Air Refueling Wing of its Air Force reserve component. MacDill is an integral part of not only the Tampa Bay area but most of the west coast of Florida in that it also provides services active duty, reserve, and retired military personnel in the form of medical facilities, base commissary, and PX privileges. As another feature of Madill’s prominence within the Tampa Bay area, the bases semi-annual hosting of the MacDill air fest, featuring frontline support and combat aircraft as well as the Air Forces demonstration team the Thunderbirds or the Navy’s Blue Angels, is typically held in the second week of May and is entirely open and free to the general public which attracts more than 700,000 visitors during the event.
Through World War II, the Cuban Missile Crises, Vietnam, the Cold War, Gulf War, as well as the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, MacDill has been the point of training and command throughout these perilous times.