There was a joke that went around years ago told by those stationed at Ellsworth to newcomers who would incredulously ask, “Why Ellsworth?” The standard reply was, “It beats Thule!”
Although this might be true even now, the truth is, Ellsworth was never a bad place to be stationed on PCS or TDY. And it’s even better now.
Almost since the inception of the base as an Air Force property it has been a home of bombers and bomber training.
Begun in 1941 as Rapid City Army Air Base, Ellsworth has since distinguished itself as a major home of training for the B-17 Flying Fortress, then the B-52 Stratofortress. Shortly after the end of World War II, Ellsworth became a training facility for several types of aircraft, primarily P-61 Black Widows, P-38 Lightnings, P-51 Mustangs, and then the B-25 Mitchell.
Since that time the base has played host to virtually every bomber aircraft produced by the United States. These include the B-29, B-52, and now the B-1 and B-2 aircraft. The US Army even has a record at Ellsworth by providing defense for the base and its assets with the establishment of a NIKE surface-to-air missile site on the grounds.
Service members and their families who call Ellsworth home enjoy the benefit of many modern amenities that are on base as well as in close proximity, either immediately off base or in nearby Rapid City, a bustling city of more than 70,000 citizens. And since Rapid City is so close to the base, many Ellsworth service members call it their home. There are even a considerable number of Air Force retirees who have decided to call Rapid City home after their service is completed.
On-base there are a number of excellent facilities for the service of base residents. There are movie theaters, a BX and commissary (as well as annexes) and many other benefits.
Originally located on-base, but now immediately outside the main gate is the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, which chronicles the history of not only Ellsworth, but flight in general throughout the state of South Dakota. For a nominal fee visitors can tour the facility which features a number of excellent exhibits as well as a Minuteman missile training launch facility.
Health care facilities at Ellsworth rival the best in the nation operated under the auspices of the 28th Medical Group, which oversees everything for care, from an outpatient clinic, pharmacy, dental clinic, flight medicine, and practically everything else.
Educational opportunities on-base abound with everything from pre-school to grade 12. There are also remedial programs to help those with educational deficiencies to complete their high school educations as well as prepare for college. Two colleges offer extended programs on-base that lead those involved to associates, bachelors, and master’s degrees in a wide variety of technical as well as nontechnical studies.
If you find yourself with a little free time on your hands, there are plenty of opportunities on-base to keep those minds and bodies active with a large community center, bowling alley, movie theater, world-class fitness center, and even a professional development center, which offers not only advice but the means for officers and enlisted personnel to enhance their Air Force careers as well as prepare for their transition to their civilian roles.
Whatever your need or desire, chances are good that Ellsworth has what you need or is close to it. Have a problem? Just ask. All of us were new here once. We’re all anxious to return the favors that were granted us one time. All you have to do in return is to pass the favor along.