Fort Richardson was named for the military pioneer explorer, Brigadier General Wilds P. Richardson, who served three tours of duty in the rugged Alaska territory between 1897 and 1917. Richardson, a native Texan and an 1884 West Point graduate, commanded troops along the Yukon River and supervised construction of Fort Egbert near Eagle, and Fort William H. Seward (Chilkoot Barracks) near Haines.
As head of the War Department’s Alaska Road Commission during 1905-1917, he was responsible for much of the surveying and building of early railroads, roads, and bridges that helped the state’s settlement and growth. The Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, surveyed under his direction in 1904, was named the Richardson Highway in his honor.
Fort Richardson was built during 1940-1941 on the site of what is now Elmendorf Air Force Base. Established as the headquarters of the United States Army, Alaska (USARAL) in 1947, the post moved to its present location five miles north of Anchorage in 1950. The post then had barracks for 500 Soldiers, a rifle range, a few warehouses, a hospital and bachelor officer quarters.
Fort Richardson is now headquarters for United States Army Alaska, a subordinate unit of United States Army Pacific (USARPAC).
A full range of Family and Soldier support facilities common to any small community are found on post, ranging from a Shoppette to childcare and recreational facilities. The post has small but modern dental and medical clinics, and receives major medical services from the 673rd Medical Group hospital at Elmendorf Air Force Base. The Joint Military Mall located between Fort Richardson and Elmendorf provides Post Exchange and Commissary services.
The post’s largest military tenant is the Alaska National Guard, with facilities at Camp Carroll and Camp Denali. Fort Richardson also hosts several non-military activities to include a Veterans Administration National Cemetery and State of Alaska Fish Hatchery.
The fort encompasses 62,000 acres, which includes space for offices, Family housing, a heliport, a drop zone suitable for airborne and air/land operations, firing ranges and other training areas. Nearby mountain ranges offer Soldiers the opportunity to learn mountain/glacier warfare and rescue techniques.
In December 2005, the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) act was passed into law. The 2005 BRAC law announced formation of 12 joint bases by 2011, one of which was realignment of Ft Richardson with Elmendorf Air Force Base to form Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) with the Air Force taking the lead.