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Los Alamitos Army Airfield

Image of Joint Training Force Base seal

Joint Forces Training Base
Unofficial Homepage

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Los Alamitos Airfield Official Website
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Welcome to my unofficial webpage for Los Alamitos Army Airfield. I am one of the Air Traffic Control Specialists stationed at Los Alamitos AAF. My goal is to provide information about Los Alamitos AAF, its people, and events concerning the airfield and surrounding community. If you have any information, or pictures that you don't mind sharing please e-mail me at
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Following is a brief history of NAS Los Alamitos, California.

The historical beginning of Los Alamitos can be traced to the commissioning of a Naval Reserve Air Base (NRAB) on 10 May 1928 located at Long Beach Municipal Airport. The airfield was later named Daugherty Field in honor of Ltjg. Earl Daugherty an early member of the NRAB.

The NRAB was under command of the Naval Operating Base at San Pedro, Calif. Like the Naval Reserve Air Bases established during the 1930's, it successfully fell under the command of the Naval Air Primary Training Command, on 1 October 1942; Naval Air Center, Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, on 15 August 1943; and finally Naval Air Bases, Eleventh Naval District, on 10 August 1944.

As a NRAB, the mission of Los Alamitos was to instruct, train and drill Naval Reserve aviation personnel living in the Eleventh Naval District. For ten years after its establishment it used Squadron VN13RD11 for training purposes, with the first five officers and twelve men living in tents because quarters were not provided for them. Ground school was offered three nights a week at the base and two nights a week at the University of California in Los Angeles until 1930, when ground school was continuously offered at the base. Meanwhile, on 9 April 1939, training in night flight began, and its facilities were used by fleet aircraft as well

On 10 May 1938 Los Alamitos received its first class of cadets for primary flight training, in 1939 a second squadron of VN16RD11 came on board, and on 1 June it physically moved from the Long Beach Municipal Airport to its new location. For a decade, thus its primary mission had been to train officers and men of the Naval Reserve. On 15 August 1943 it became an Operational Training Base for training of fleet units and was classified as a naval air station. In addition to providing training, it serviced aircraft from the Battle Fleet, including carrier air groups from the Lexington, Saratoga, and old Langley.

The original building at NRAB Long Beach had been built by the City of Long Beach and leased to the Navy for $1 a year, whereas the facilities at Los Alamitos were constructed largely by WPA funds during the late 1930s. At the original site, VN13RD11 used U01 land planes to which late in 1928 were added some 02Us. Although NY land planes were used for almost a decade after February 1929, in 1938 came JF3s and SF1s and then "Yellow Perils" of the N3N2, N3N3, and N2S3 variety. Once Los Alamitos became an operational base, however, it serviced carrier-borne F4Fs, SBDs, FM-2s, F4Us, F6Fs, TBF/TBMs, and SB2Cs. In addition, it had utility aircraft and such patrol planes as the PBY, SNB, GB3, NH, GH, and SNJ. During its earliest days, in September 1928, it was the site of the National Air Races in Los Angeles. On 17 March, while returning from his goodwill flight to Mexico, where he met his future wife, Anne Morrow, Col Charles A Linbergh stopped over for service to his Curtis Falcon Lone Eagle. On 29 August 1929 aircraft from Los Alamitos escorted Douglas Corrigan on his start for his "wrong way" flight to Ireland. On 4 May 1932 Marine Corps fighting Squadron 4 was established which when at war became Scouting Bomber Squadron 4.

With increased air activity by commercial airlines and the private airplane industry, particularly with Douglas Aircraft showing an interest in the Los Angeles area, Long Beach Municipal Airport simply had to have more room. Indeed, with the interest shown by Douglas, the attitude of Long Beach's authorities became cold and openly hostile to naval reserve aviation. Adm. Ernest J. King, then the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, Adm. William D. Leahy, Adm. Joseph K. Taussig, and Adm. Allen E. smith decided in a conference to ask Long Beach to repair the hazardous runways and to remind the city that the fleet offshore had a payroll of over $1 million a month. The city repaired the runways but continued to show a hostile attitude toward approving a lease on additional land required by the Naval Reserve, with its city manager saying that "the sooner the Navy gets out of the Long Beach airport, the better we will like it." The Navy there upon began to survey other sites and decided upon some property owned by a Mrs. Susanna Bixby Bryant, a fact made known by the commander of the base, Comdr. Thomas A. Gray, to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, Adm. John H. Towers. The circumstances were then revealed to James V. Forrestal, the new Under Secretary of the Navy, and to the House Naval Affairs committee. Although Gray offered Mrs. Bryant $350 an acre, in the best patriotic spirit she sold at $300 an acre. With the site acquired in 1941, construction funds followed and the NRAB at Long Beach turned over its facilities there to the Army Ferrying Command, which had a base adjacent to it.

By May 1942 Los Alamitos was operating with a complete physical plant including administrative office, sick bay, a synthetic training facility, central files, classroom, and an Assembly and Repair Department. With a station complement of about 2,500 officers and men, it began training its first 500 aviation cadets. In 1942 it graduated its first 729 cadets, 180 having washed out. By the end of the year its 36 planes had increased to 140, and in 1943 it acquired five outlying fields, Training was carried out mostly in plywood N2T1s. When changed from the command of the Naval Primary Training command to that of Naval Air Center, Eleventh Naval District, on 15 August 1943, it was used to station carrier air groups. Renamed a naval air station, its flight operations were conducted by a Fleet Air Detachment, with station complement dropping from about 250 officers and 2000 men to 40 officers and 500 men and the Assembly and Repair Department discontinued but still used by the CASU on board. Many CASUs and ARGUSs (groups to establish forward air bases) were formed at and dispatched from Los Alamitos during the war. With additional construction undertaken after mid-1943, the total investment at the station to 1 January 1945 was $4,827,014.64. Growing from one officer, one man, and one plane in 1928, Los Alamitos in 1945 had become one of the Navy's most important air stations.

As was the case with other naval air stations retained in operating status following the war, Los Alamitos suffered a period of transitions and changes. Now under the command of the Chief of Naval Air Training, Pensacola, its mission was to train Reservists and service the fleet. On 1 March 1946, while it provided training, CASU 33 supported Air Group 98, but the devotion of activity could be measured by the fact that as of 28 February 1946 it had only ninety-seven V-6 personnel on active duty as station keepers, yet until the end of September this group provided proficiency flying for more than 1,500 inactive Reserve pilots,. Meanwhile CASU 706 supported patrol plane squadron 908, escort carrier air groups 779 and 778, and Carrier Air Group 716. On 16 August 1946 the first group of aviation cadets in the Selective Training program came on board, and after 1 September the station would be used by the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS). On 13 October the record-making Truculent Turtle, which had flown nonstop for almost 4,500 miles, paid the station a visit. By the end of 1946, with 243 Reserve pilots, 1,375 volunteer Reserve pilots, 255 inactive Reserve enlisted men, and 368 active duty station keepers, Los Alamitos was one of the busiest naval air Reserve stations in the Reserve Program. Between January and March 1947 the station became the largest in the entire naval Reserve air training program.

On 17 May the administration of Litchfield Park, Arizona, NAF was placed under Los Alamitos to serve volunteer Reserve aviation personnel in the Phoenix-Tucson area. With 1,300 organized Reservists, 1,682 inactive Reservists, 12 over-aged Reservists, 7 women Reservists, and 583 station keepers, Los Alamitos remained the largest naval air Reserve station in the country.

On board during the first quarter of 1948 were a light carrier aircraft group (CLG); two carrier air groups; two escort carrier air groups; two patrol plane squadrons; three transport squadrons; four fleet aircraft service squadrons; two Marine fighting squadrons and a Marine ground control interceptor unit; two volunteer units, one at Litchfield, one on the station proper; a NATS Unit; GCA; and an all-weather station. Until it was decided that there were not enough personnel to continue associated volunteer units at Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, Los Alamitos assumed administrative responsibilities for them. At the station full operations were carried on for five days a week from 0730 to 1630. Saturday night was reserved for night flying. Operations were limited on Mondays and Thursdays, weekends were madhouses as the Weekend Warriors came on board.

On 7 November 1949 the first jet, an FJ-1 Fury, was received by Los Alamitos. With all FGs replaced with F6Fs, on 1 December 1950 a reorganization occurred in which there was provided a Wing Staff with twenty-five squadrons. During the summer of 1950, 105 midshipmen from the Naval Academy reported for four days of an air cruise and 112 seamen reported for eight weeks of training duty. Meanwhile there was a waiting list for pilots and ground officers. When the naval aviation cadet program, which had opened on 1 July, closed on 25 October Los Alamitos had obtained a tenth of the cadets recruited in the entire nation. Meanwhile, in answer to the president's request for reservists to volunteer for duty during the Korean War, VG-781 requested mobilization as a complete unit, and was accepted -the first squadron in the nation to do so- VP-772 reported for active duty on 1 September; three Marine Corps Organized units were ordered to active duty, and so was VP-772. To speed up training, on 6 March and again on 16 May 1951 ninety-day trainees reported on board. The third group of trainees came on board for training 16 June and many of them as well as station personnel helped saved lives and property during heavy rains and floods that damaged the nearby town of Los Alamitos. On 15 January 1952 the first helicopter unit came on board, also in 1952 a Reserve Air intelligence Unit came on board.

Los Alamitos Sign For the next decade operations at Los Alamitos were routine. In 1970, however, the Navy closed the station as a Naval Air Reserve Training Facility and let it serve merely as a Naval Air station until 1972, when it was changed into an Armed Forces Reserve Center to be used by Reserve Components. From leased facilities at commercial airports helicopter elements of both the National Guard and Army Reserve moved to the center. Following approval by an Environmental Impact Statement filed in August 1973, the Navy was designated host to the Armed Forces Reserve Center, with the California Army National Guard charged with operating the airfield. While the Army and the California National Guard used about half of the physical facilities, about all the Navy has left there is the Aero Club its sponsor.

The airfield at Los Alamitos has two all weather runways, one at 8000 ft and the other is 6000 ft. Los Alamitos can handle almost every aircraft in the flying inventory and the airfield often lands C-5, C-17, C-141, other transports, DOD charter airlift, NASA missions, fighter aircraft and has hosted the Commander-in-Chief's, Boeing 747, Air Force One on numerous occasions along with the USMC Presidential Helicopter Flight Detachment (HMX-1). Ramp space can accommodate up to ten parked C-5's without difficulty. Los Al is the largest Army Airfield operated by the National Guard Bureau (NGB).

Presently, some 60 helicopters of the 40th Aviation Brigade are stationed at Los Alamitos AAF. These include OH-58C Scouts, UH-1H Hueys, UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-1F Cobra Attack Helicopters. Several Army Reserve C-12 airplanes are also assigned and the Department of Agriculture operates about a dozen aircraft that support the Medfly/Mexfly eradication program. The airfield includes a fully staffed Army Air Traffic control tower, crash rescue/fire department, jet fuel farm with aviation refueling and an Army Aviation Weather Office. Additionally the airfield operates a full motion UH-1 Flight Simulator (2B24SFTS).

Los Alamitos Army Airfield is one of the most active DOD aviation operations in the Continental United States. Located in one of the most congested and heavily flown airspace in the United States, Los Alamitos's Control Tower is one of the busiest in southern California, also managing five instrument approach procedures including radar. Los Alamitos has supported various mobilizations and deployments including Gulf War activities, Panama and most recently Bosnia. Los Alamitos was used as the assembly area for the Los Angeles riots, the Northridge earthquake, the 1984 Summer Olympics, and a variety of emergency preparedness exercises.

The AFRC is home to the headquarters of the 63rd Regional Support Command (RSC) and home to the California Army National Guards 40th Infantry division (Mechanized). Various other National guard and Army reserve units are also stationed at Los Alamitos. Additionally the AFRC supports the Marine corps Reserve (USMCR), Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Army and hosts the State of California's Office of Emergency Services (OES) complete with satellite communications to command emergency operations in Southern California. Over 800 military, civilian and contract personnel are assigned at Los Alamitos on a full time basis to support training, operations and services. More than 2000 traditional guardsmen and reservists conduct training at the AFRC as well.

Los Al is a strategic asset located in a key area on the West Coast of the United States and a vital spot in Southern California. With dwindling military presence in California, this airfield significance is greatly increased.

In July of 2000 Los Alamitos Armed Force Reserve Center changed its name to Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Center.

Super Guppy  July 1998

U.S. Army Air Traffic Controllers Association 

US Army Air Traffic Controllers Association discussion forum

US Army Air Traffic Controllers In Vietnam

Many thanks to the National Museum of Naval Aviation for providing me the history of Los Alamitos Airfield.

Aircraft photos and information courtesy of National Museum of Naval Aviation
Photo of USS Langly courtesy of NavSource
Information on VP-772 and "Truculent Turtle" provided by VP NAVY

Just a few facts that I was able to find on the City of Los Alamitos

Helpful links for those visiting Southern California

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Updated: 26 March 2013
Born on 30 July 1998