The post’s history began in 1942 when “doughboy” 1st Lt. William L. Brame, of the 138th Infantry Regiment, led an advance detail of 15 men to the Big Delta Area to establish an Army Air Corps base. Brame was post commander.
Brame was part of an organization activated in Seattle that consisted of an infantry platoon, a quartermaster and medical, finance and signal detachments.
These first Army units set up camp June 30, 1942, at what was to become Station 17, Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command. Throughout World War II, the post was a rest-and-refueling spot for American pilots ferrying aircraft to Ladd Army Airfield (now Fort Wainwright) for the Lend-Lease Program.
Fort Greely continued as an Army Air Corps base until 1945, when it was put on inactive status. For the next two years, the Civil Aeronautics Authority and a skeleton crew of Army personnel maintained the installation.
In April 1947, the War Department designated the base as the site for the first postwar cold weather maneuver, “Exercise Yukon,” staged during winter 1947-48.
The installation was reactivated May 1, 1948, and was officially transferred to the Department of the Army and redesignated as an Army post. Under this directive, the post was to be called United States Troops, Big Delta, Alaska. The post was named as the site for the Arctic Training Center in 1948. It was chosen because it combined the extreme winter conditions of Alaska’s Interior with a great variety of terrain, including rivers, lakes, swamps and open plains.
Originally the center consisted of three subdivisions in addition to the post headquarters personnel: the Army Arctic Indoctrination School, the Army Training Company (School Troops), and the Test and Development Section. The school was established to teach living and movement under extreme arctic and subarctic conditions to personnel from all branches of the armed services.
The post was redesignated the Arctic Training Center July 1, 1949. Later that month the Arctic Test Branch was established by cadre at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the transfer begun of personnel from each of the Army Field Forces Boards, located in the Zone of the Interior.
The post was renamed the Army Arctic Center Sept. 1, 1952. Construction began on the permanent buildings 1 mile from the airfield in 1953. These buildings are referred to as “main post” today, while the original temporary buildings near the airfield are called “old post.” During that same year, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps-Arctic Test Team was established at the post. A major construction program for permanent-type buildings was initiated in 1954. The program included post headquarters, post engineer facilities, an auditorium, a fire station, a power plant, warehouses, a photographic laboratory, maintenance shops, and the Cold Weather and Mountain School facilities. In addition, 96 sets of quarters, three 200-man barracks, a post office, a provost marshal facility, a dispensary, a library and personnel offices were constructed. Barracks space was converted to what is now known as the Composite Building, Building 663.
The post was designated Fort Greely Aug. 6, 1955, in honor of Maj. Gen. Adolphus Washington Greely, Arctic explorer and founder of the Alaska Communications System. Greely was responsible for the construction of thousands of miles of telegraph lines throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. More than 45,000 miles of telegraph lines were completed in Alaska alone.
Congress awarded Greely the Medal of Honor in 1935 for “his life of splendid public service.” During 1955, a combined post exchange-theater building, service club and gymnasium were built.
The Chemical Corps Arctic Test Team was redesignated a Class II activity in 1956 and in 1957 was renamed the U.S. Army Chemical Corps-Arctic Test Activity. An Officers’ Open Mess and Noncommissioned Officers’ Mess, along with 72 more sets of quarters, were constructed. The Arctic Test Group was renamed the Arctic Test Board, and the Arctic Indoctrination School became the Army Cold Weather and Mountain School when the Mountain Training Center at Fort Carson, Colorado, was deactivated. A major landscaping program was initiated in 1958, and in 1959 a recreation building and an addition to the PX were constructed.
During the 1960s, 93 additional sets of family quarters, a new chapel, another 200-man barracks and maintenance buildings were built. The Department of the Army redesignated the Cold Weather and Mountain School as the Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) in April 1963.
NWTC was then given the mission of training units in the conduct of warfare in northern areas of operation. A year later the Arctic Test Board was renamed the Arctic Test Center.
Fort Greely became part of the 172nd Infantry Brigade in 1974, after the disestablishment of United States Army, Alaska. The post was under the command of Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
With activation of the 6th Infantry Division (Light) and U.S. Army Garrison, Alaska, on March 23, 1986, Fort Greely became one of the three posts of the division’s one-installation concept.
Fort Greely celebrated its 50th anniversary (in conjunction with the annual Midnight Sun Festival) with a three-day festival in June 1992. The 6th Infantry Division (Light) was deactivated in a formal ceremony July 6, 1994, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The actual effective date for the deactivation occurred July 26, 1994, with it becoming part of U.S. Army Alaska.
In 1995, the installation underwent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and was essentially warm-based. In 2001, it was partially removed from the BRAC list to support the national objective of missile defense. It was reduced to its current size of 7,200 acres, and the surrounding ranges and training lands were transferred to Fort Wainwright.
Today, Fort Greely proudly serves as an integral part of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) and is a national security asset.
Fort Greely’s installation mission is midcourse missile defense (destroying threat missiles in their midcourse phase). Fort Greely is also host to the military missions of the Cold Regions Test Center, and by Intra-Service Support Agreement, the Northern Warfare Training Center.
Fort Greely Garrison’s mission can be compared to an isolated city that provides government and myriad public services, including transportation and police and fire protection. With our remote location, there is special emphasis on workforce morale, welfare and recreation; housing; health services; child development; religious services; and support to the local school system. At Fort Greely, housing is provided primarily for the Soldiers and for Department of Defense civilians and contractors as authorized.
Fort Greely Garrison’s supported tenants include: Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense; 49th Missile Defense Battalion; 59th Signal Battalion; Cold Regions Test Center; U.S. Army Alaska; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Army and Air Force Exchange Service; Defense Commissary Agency; Delta/Greely School District; the U.S. Postal Service; and ISSA, the Northern Warfare Training Center.
The installation and garrison commander at Fort Greely is dual-hatted and reports to both the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) through the Pacific Area Region Office in Honolulu and the senior mission commander through Space Missile Defense Command (SMDC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.