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The history of CFB Edmonton begins at an old airfield called Blatchford Field (named after a former mayor of Edmonton, Kenny Blatchford), a few kilometres south from where CFB Edmonton would eventually be established. The airfield began operating after the First World War and became important to the opening up and development of the Canadian north. During the Second World War Blatchford Field became a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) training station under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. No. 16 Elementary Flying Training School (No. 16 EFTS) and No. 2 Air Observers School (No. 2 AOS) used the aerodrome. The RCAF also ran No. 4 Initial Training School (No. 4 ITS) which was a ground school located at the University of Alberta. No. 16 EFTS closed in 1942 and No. 2 AOS closed in 1944. After No. 2 AOS closed, the station formally became known as RCAF Station Edmonton. Many RCAF squadrons and units were located here, including a survival school and the RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment (WEE). A United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-29 bomber detachment also used the station.
During the war the airfield became a staging point for the US defence of Alaska and was heavily used by the US military. Aircraft had to be ferried and transport aircraft used the aerodrome to support the construction of the Alaska Highway. Air traffic increased significantly and flying activities were becoming hazardous. Since the old airfield could not be expanded because of its proximity to the city of Edmonton, the U.S. Government built a new air facility at Namao, about 11 km (6.8 mi) north of the city. The United States Army Corps of Engineers built two runways at the base, 03/21 and 12/30, both 2,100 m (6,890 ft) long and Canada’s longest. The Americans ran the Namao airfield until the end of the war when the Canadian Government took it over. RCAF Station Edmonton, located at the old Blatchford Field, developed some severe limitations and so all RCAF Squadrons and support units were transferred to the “new” RCAF Station Namao on 1 October 1955. Blatchford Field was turned over to the Edmonton municipal government and became a commercial airport.
During the Cold War RCAF Station Namao was used by the United States Strategic Air Command, which constructed a “Nose Dock” capable of servicing the nose and wings of heavy jet bombers and tankers on the south side of the airfield. The station also hosted the Edmonton Rescue Coordination Centre, and served as home base for United Nations Food Aid flights, delivering much-needed aid to Ethiopia, Somalia, and Bosnia. Because Namao at that time had a 4,200-metre (13,780 ft) runway, 12/30, it was a designated an emergency Space Shuttle landing site by NASA.
In 1968, when Canada’s armed forces were amalgamated, RCAF Station Namao was redesignated Canadian Forces Base Edmonton (Lancaster Park) and was under command of the new Air Transport Command and later Air Command.
Federal Government budget cuts forced the command of the air station to be transferred to the Canadian Forces Land Force Command in 1994. CFB Edmonton (Lancaster Park)/18 Wing Edmonton was redesignated CFB Edmonton.
Although both runways are still visible they are no longer in use except for a 45 m × 150 m (148 ft × 492 ft) section of 03/21 used by helicopters. It is one of the few Canadian aerodromes to be given in metres rather than feet.
CFB Edmonton today:
CFB Edmonton is currently the headquarters of 3rd Canadian Division, the highest army authority in western Canada, and a number of brigade groups, including 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1 CMBG), the only Regular Force brigade group in the region. The base is situated at Steele Barracks (named for Sir Sam Steele) just outside the city. The area formerly known as CFB Griesbach within the city itself is no longer operational: all buildings and land were sold and are no longer Crown assets. The base as a collective is an important part of the community surrounding Edmonton and is home to some of the most prestigious and experienced units in the Canadian Military.
The 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, along with elements of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) and 1 Combat Engineer Regiment (all part of 1 CMBG) were chosen to be a part of Canada’s military response to the September 11, 2001 attacks and were deployed on combat operations to Afghanistan (including Operation Anaconda) in 2001 and 2002. Units from the base were deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, as part of the Canadian Forces command takeover in that area as well. Units from Edmonton were also deployed on domestic operations such as to assist with the Red River Flood in 1997 (where the entire 1 CMBG was deployed) and, more recently, as a part of Operation Peregrine in response to the forest fires in British Columbia in 2003. Units from CFB Edmonton were also deployed on numerous peacekeeping operations, including to Bosnia and Kosovo, among others.
The Area Support Unit (ASU) and CFB Edmonton provide infrastructure and support to 47 units located in and around Edmonton. The number of military personnel at these units includes 4,500 regular, and 500 reserve force soldiers. There are also 500 civilian employees and 7,800 family members, bringing the total population of the Edmonton military community to approximately 13,300.
In February 2012, it was reported that the Alberta Government had been in contact with the federal government and military officials in Ottawa and Edmonton over the use of the runway for MEDIVAC flights once Edmonton City Centre is closed. Alberta Deputy Premier Doug Horner said that he had spoken with the Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, and the Minister of Public Works, Rona Ambrose for further discussion.
Source: Wikipedia Canada
Image Source / Map Data: Google. Maxar Technologies