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Ramey Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. It was named after Brigadier General Howard Knox Ramey. BG Ramey and his 11-man crew in Boeing B-17F-1-BO Flying Fortress 41-24384 "PLUTO" disappeared during a reconnaissance mission in March 1943 and were never found.
Origins of this air force base go back to 1936, when the necessity for an air base in Puerto Rico was recognized and advocated by United States Army Air Corps officials as a logical extension of the air defenses of the Panama Canal and of Puerto Rico itself. The Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School forwarded to the Chief of the Air Corps a report describing Puerto Rico as a "most valuable asset" for national defense and recommending establishment of an Army Air Base on the island.
In 1939, the Army sent Major George C. Kenney to Puerto Rico to conduct a preliminary survey of possible air base sites. He examined a total of 42 sites and declared that Punta Borinquen the best site for a major air base. Planted sugar cane farms covered some 3796 acres that the government purchased for military use in the first week of September 1939 at a cost of $1,215,000. Later that year, Major Karl S. Axtater assumed command of what was to become Borinquen Army Air Field. In a less than auspicious arrival, Axtater landed the first aircraft ever at the still crude, unprepared runway of Borinquen and blew the tire on the tail wheel of the plane, but no serious damage or injury resulted. The 27th Bombardment Squadron arrived from Langley Field, Virginia, in late 1939 with nine B-18A Bolo medium bombers as the first squadron based at Borinquen Field. 417th Bombardment Squadron arrived on 21 November 1939.
In 1940, the air echelon of the 25th Bombardment Group (14 B-18A aircraft and two A-17 aircraft) arrived at the base from Langley Field. After 1 November 1940, the base served as headquarters of 25th Bombardment Group.
On 13 December 1940, the "tempest-in-a-teapot" "Battle of Borinquen Field" took place. Strictly a misnomer, the "battle" consisted solely of an "alert" and nervous guards firing machine guns against a "non-existent enemy invasion force", in reality a friendly merchant vessel traveling inshore for protection. The "battle" lasted 15 minutes, and in the confusion, one woman was wounded.
Throughout 1972, Ramey AFB deactivated and the various units readied for closure. Some groups transferred out intact, while others gradually were phased out. The Air Force controlled the base until early 1974, when all remaining active units were dissolved. The Base had been formally closed in 1973. The main installation of Ramey AFB consisted of 3,139.55 acres. In February, 1974, the bulk of Ramey AFB proper (3,138 acres) was declared excess by the General Services Administration (GSA) and named the base Naval Station Roosevelt Roads West Annex. In July, 1974, the Air Force transferred 303 acres to the Navy. Of the remaining 257 acres, the Navy transferred 57+ acres to the Army, and 129 acres to the Coast Guard. In December 1974, the Air Force transferred 21 acres of land to the Coast Guard, which still utilizes the area.
In 1971, the United States Coast Guard relocated its aviation units from U.S. Naval Air Station Isla Grande in San Juan, Puerto Rico and established the Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen. United States Coast Guard fact sheets and historical documents state that the U.S. Coast Guard took possession of, "...an outstanding hangar with adjacent support facilities," from the Air Force. Air Station Borinquen consist of many facilities around the former Ramey Base, this are a Coast Guard housing area formerly U.S. Air Force housing, a Coast Guard recruiting office, Medical Health Clinic and Dental Clinic, Base Library, Community Center, Swimming Pool, Coast Guard Exchange PX, Base Gymnasium and other fitness facilities, Base Chapel, Movie Theater, Child Development Center, and a Boys and Girls Club.
In 1973, Ramey AFB was closed by the Air Force as an active Air Force Base, part of a post-Vietnam War reduction-in-force (RIF) that closed-down numerous Air Force Bases. In the late 1970s the base was given to the town of Aguadilla for its care. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, most of the old military housing area was sold off to the general public, while a few base buildings were converted into facilities for other U.S. Government agencies. The former USAF Hospital was converted into the Marriott Courtyard Aguadilla, a three-star hotel and now one of the most visited hotels on the west side of the island.
As it was before the Air Force's departure, the primary mission of Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen remains search & rescue. Secondary missions include law enforcement, aerial support for ATON, and logistic support. To accomplish these missions, the Air Station has now four HH-65A Dolphin helicopters permanently assigned, as well as periodically hosting Coast Guard HC-130H and HC-130J Hercules, HU-25 Guardian, HC-144 Ocean Sentry and HH-60J Jayhawk aircraft normally based at other Coast Guard Air Stations. CGAS Borinquen consists of two runways (the primary runway, 11,700 feet (3,600 m) long, is still maintained), a very large former B-52 heavy bomber dispersal parking area, and numerous ramps and hangars. U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen is under the direct command of the 7th U.S. Coast Guard District in Miami, Florida.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen are the only permanent active duty military personnel at the former Ramey Air Force Base.
The U.S. Army Reserve Center (ARC) located at Cliff Road is home for the 81st Regional Support Command (RSC), 210th Regional Support Group, 246th Mortuary Affairs Company (the only mortuary affair unit in the U.S. Army Reserve), 210th Regional Support Group, the 77th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the 91st Chaplain Detachment, 246th Quartermaster Company, the 311th Quartermaster Company, the 266th Ordnance Company and Branch Maintenance Area 161.
Punta Borinquen Radar Station is a Puerto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG) installation located next to Punta Borinquen Golf Course. It is home for the 141st Air Control Squadron of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard. A small National Guard Exchange (NGX) BX is also located at the Punta Borinquen Radar Station.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) Ramey Job Corps Central Campus is located at Belt St. Building #760. This facility has an Administration Office, Wellness Center, Female Dormitory, Male Dormitory, Cafeteria and Classrooms.
In 2000, North American Airlines re-opened passenger service with a non-stop flight to New York-JFK three times a week. Later on Continental Airlines joined North American with a daily flight to their hub in Newark. The evident success of service from the Aguadilla, caught the attention of Boston-Maine Airways that opened a route to Orlando-Sanford and Santo Domingo.
In 2006 and 2007, the former Ramey AFB control tower was renovated and reopened as the Rafael Hernandez International Airport control tower. By the low season of 2007, there were 59 flights per week, 1 daily flight to New York, 1 to Newark and Orlando and a flight 5 times per week to Ft. Lauderdale. FedEx also has an air cargo terminal at this airport.
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, announced at the International Fair of Tourism, in Madrid, that charter flights to the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona will commence on March 2011. The flights will begin in a weekly basis for a period of 6 months with goals of permanent service to the European cities. The flight to Madrid will be on Saturdays, while the one to Barcelona will be on Sundays. They will be on a Boeing 767 with capacity for 214 passengers in an 18/196 configuration.
Mueller, Robert (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-912799-53-6, ISBN 0-16-002261-4