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Military

Rapid City is a community with a heritage of patriotism. In 2011, Rand McNally voted Rapid City as The Most Patriotic Town in the Nation. We are home to two military bases, a thriving VA medical network and veterans’ organizations.

Ellsworth Air Force Base
Located approximately six miles northeast of Rapid City, Ellsworth is operated by the 28th Bomb Wing with a primary mission of operating two B-1B strategic bomber squadrons.

The current mission of the 28th Bomb Wing is to deliver decisive combat power for global response. The wing consists of four major units: operations, maintenance, mission support and medical groups. Ellsworth’s population of approximately 8,000 includes military members, family members and civilian employees. In addition, about 3,800 military retirees in Western South Dakota maintain ties to Ellsworth AFB.

Established as the Rapid City Army Airfield in 1942 to train B-17 flying fortress crews, instructors taught thousands of pilots, navigators, radio operators and gunners from nine heavy bombardment groups and numerous smaller units. All training focused on the Allied drive to overthrow the Axis powers in Europe. After World War II, the base briefly trained weather reconnaissance and combat squadrons.

In 1947 the base became a United States Air Force installation operating the new B-29 Superfortress and then in 1953, the name changed in honor of Brigadier General Richard E. Ellsworth who was killed in a RB-36 Peacemaker aircraft crash in Newfoundland. A centerpiece for the Strategic Air Command, the base has also hosted the B-39 Peacemaker, B-52 Stratofortress, and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Currently, Ellsworth’s B-1B Lancers serve with the Air Combat Command in missions around the globe. Additionally, Ellsworth is home to the Air Force’s Financial Services Center and an Unmanned Aerial Systems Squadron.

South Dakota National Guard Camp Rapid
Located on Rapid City’s west side is the headquarters of the South Dakota National Guard at Camp Rapid. Although the state capital is in Pierre, the state’s Adjutant General is located at Camp Rapid. The camp developed as a summer encampment site for the South Dakota National Guard in the early 20th Century, using land borrowed from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It became a permanent installation during and immediately after World War I, when it was used for mobilization of National Guard units for the front in France. Its use continued during the 1920s and 1930s and it was taken over as a federal installation during World War II.

Over the past decade, the permanent and temporary buildings erected during World War II are being replaced with modern facilities designed to accommodate the evolving missions of today’s National Guard. Camp Rapid employs more than 300 full time Army and Air National Guard members and civilians and supports several deployments each year. Camp Rapid is host to annual exercises involving thousands of National Guard personnel from all states and military personnel from foreign nations.

Veterans Resources
As the veteran’s hub for our region, Rapid City offers many resources for our military veterans. The VA Black Hills Health Care System has clinics throughout the Black Hills and is recognized for its exemplary care of veterans and their families.

Many veteran organizations are active throughout our community. Organizations such as the VFW, American Legion and TREA offer gathering places and activities for our local vets to stay connected.

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