Oct. 1, 1994, was the end of an era in Fort Worth; but it was also the beginning of another.
Carswell Air Force Base, built in 1941 for the U.S. Army before it came under U.S. Air Force command in 1948, was slated for closure in 1991 after the Department of Defense — prompted by dramatic cuts in defense spending — determined that it could save $45.5 million annually by shutting the base down.
The installation’s long and storied history — many residents grew up accustomed to the sights and sounds of bombers engaged in practice flights overhead — meant the loss of the base was expected to have a deep and resounding impact on the local community.
Air Force estimates at the time predicted the closure would wipe out 12,000 jobs, slash regional income by $212 million and cause a population loss of 20,000.
But such a fate never came to pass, at least in part due to the efforts of local public officials, including then-Fort Worth mayor Kay Granger, who unrelentingly petitioned Washington to keep the base open.
Twenty years ago this week, the base was transformed yet again, this time into the nation’s first joint reserve command — newly named the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.
Consolidating commands from Dallas, Tennessee and Illinois, the base became the new headquarters for 11,400 Navy, Marine, Air Force, Army and Texas Air National Guard reservists and civilians.
At the time of its conversion, many military officials called NAS Fort Worth a “model” for future joint reserve bases. The Cold War had ended, and the military was streamlining in the absence of a monolithic foreign threat.
But in the ensuing two decades, a restless world has kept NAS Fort Worth plenty busy; it has provided training and resources to mobilized guardsmen and reservists deployed in support of overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations in conflict.
The base should continue to play an important role in our nation’s defense for decades to come.
Happy anniversary, NAS Fort Worth.