The military has played an important part in Yuma’s history and culture since its early days. The fort formerly called the Army’s Quartermaster Depot is now part of the Colorado River State Historic Park. It was tasked with supplying frontier forts for several hundred miles around by 20-mule teams. And before that, Fort Calhoun was located on where you now find Quechan tribal offices and services, overlooking the river from a strategic high stone outcropping.
Today’s military in Yuma includes two installations, and both of those have roots that go back the better part of a century in the Yuma area. The site of the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) goes back to 1928 when it was Yuma’s first airfield and hosted famed aviator Amelia Earhart. It’s now the Marine Corps’ busiest air station. It supports 80 percent of the Corps’ air-to-ground training and is the “home of the Harrier.” The base’s location in the desert has played a part in training and mission readiness of our military over the last couple of decades. Similarly, the Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) started out as a good spot to train soldiers for war in North Africa, when it looked like Hitler was advancing there. Tens of thousands of GIs lived in tents and trained in the heat in the 1930s-1940s under General Patton. Present-day use of YPG provides realistic testing of U.S. military equipment and munitions, both on the ground and in the air. YPG controls nearly 2,000 square miles of restricted air space. That means commercial airline flights from LA to Phoenix are required to dip south to follow I-8 while in our area, before winging to the northeast again once out of the restricted space. The YPG swath of desert sees the latest in our nation’s defense systems including artillery, armored vehicles, unmanned aircraft, parachute systems, counter technology, and more.