Barracks and aircraft were the most prevalent locations of asbestos on base. Old or damaged construction products posed highest risks of exposure.
Asbestos and Air Force Bases Explained
The Air Force used asbestos in virtually every aircraft and building until the 1980s, which is when the Air Force started regulating asbestos. Any family member or veteran who lived or worked on an Air Force base may have been exposed to asbestos at some point.
Asbestos was used for its excellent insulating features, but its dangers were hidden by asbestos manufacturers who knew asbestos was harmful. Any insulation or construction materials made before 1980 probably contained asbestos. When exposed to asbestos, a person may develop mesothelioma.
Of course, the Air Force couldn’t remove all the asbestos in every base. While the mineral isn’t dangerous when undisturbed, microscopic asbestos fibers can stay airborne for hours. Older asbestos-containing materials that may break apart are the most dangerous.
The Air Force has taken precautions to protect current Airmen and their families from asbestos exposure. There are teams who are trained to handle and remove asbestos products.
In addition, veterans currently facing mesothelioma may be entitled to financial and medical benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Notable Air Force Bases
Air Force bases aren’t just places for aircraft to take off and land. These bases are places where new airmen are trained, where technology is developed, and most importantly, these bases are home for hundreds of thousands of Airmen and their families.
Air Force bases employ civilians, police forces, firefighters and function as individual communities.
Some of the largest Air Force bases include:
Edwards Air Force Base
This base is located in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles away from Los Angeles. The base is home to about 22,000 people. Half are active duty Airmen and their families while the other half consists of reserves and retirees. Edwards AFB is the location of the Air Force Test Center.
This is the base where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the 1940s. The base was instrumental in World War II and throughout the Cold War to develop the top aircraft in the world. The base features top medical services, housing divisions and recreation for on-base families.
Scott Air Force Base
Built in 1917, Scott Air Base has been part of every major military confrontation since World War I, it’s located in southern Illinois.
The base is part of the greater metropolitan area of St. Louis and has about 5,500 active duty personnel but is home to over 40,000 people. Scott AFB was reclassified as an Air Force Base the year after the branch was founded in 1948.
Did you or a loved one develop mesothelioma after serving in the U.S. Air Force? Call (877) 450-8973 to get help now.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Also built in 1917, Wright-Patterson Air Base is just east of Dayton, Ohio. With approximately 137,000 living and working here, this is one of the largest Air Force bases in terms of population.
It has a workforce of about 10,000 civilians. There are about 7,000 active duty Airmen on base as well. The base’s name honors nearby Dayton, long considered the “birthplace of aviation.”
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland
In 2010, the Department of Defense combined the Army’s Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Base and Randolph Air Base. Now it’s one of the largest military bases in the world with over 295,000 people on base.
The site was constructed in 1941. It’s the location of basic training for all people enlisted in the Air Force. This joint base is referred to as “Military City USA.”
Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Fort Lewis and McChord Airfield were combined in 2010 to form another joint Army-Air Force base. Located in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not only one of the largest bases, but also one of the most strategically located.
Operations here center on transport missions, both military and humanitarian. The base is home to the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, one of the largest military transports in the world. Both Fort Lewis and the airfield predate World War II.
International Air Force Bases
The U.S. Air Force has a responsibility unlike any other air force in the world. Our Air Force has duties across the globe, therefore the Air Force needs to be able to respond quickly to situations abroad. This is why there are so many bases located around the world.
Here are two of the largest overseas Air Force bases:
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany
This installation located in western Germany is home to over 50,000 overseas Airmen and their families. It is the headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. It’s also home to NATO Allied Air Command, making Ramstein Air Base one of the most valuable bases in the world.
Aviano Air Force Base, Italy
Built in 1911, the U.S. Air Force began using Aviano Air Base in 1954. It’s still owned and operated by the Italian Air Force. The Air Force’s 31st Fighter Wing is located here, the only one south of the Alps.
The Fighter Wing consists of 2 F-16 fighter squadrons. Eventually, the population of American Airmen on the base continued growing until it became the location one of the largest populations of overseas Airmen. Aviano AFB, located in northeastern Italy, houses over 80,000 people.
Other countries that are home to U.S. AFB’s include:
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
The risk of asbestos exposure is the same no matter the location of your Air Force base. Even those stationed in a country with stricter asbestos regulations are at risk. Although the U.S. military has taken steps in every branch to reduce asbestos and protect Airmen, those who served prior 1980 could have been exposed.
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