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Utah's Hill Air Force Base turns 70 years old

Utah's Hill Air Force Base turns 70 years old

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LAYTON, Utah (AP) -- Hill Air Force Base turns 70 years old this month, and officials say it's as important as ever for northern Utah, generating $2 billion in wages a year.

It was called "Hill Field" early on, then took on a larger role for the military during World War II as a maintenance and supply base, repairing thousands of fighter planes for redeployment. It was named after Maj. Ployer P. Hill, a military pioneer who died while piloting the B-17 prototype. It also played major roles in the Korean conflict, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the war in Afghanistan.

"One of the things people yell about is there are more jets flying all the time, but I always tell them those jets are flying for freedom," Ogden retiree Leona Allred told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden.

She began work as a secretary at the base in 1966 and recalls a dress code banned women from wearing slacks -- even as they had to walk from a bus stop across the sprawling base in frigid weather to reach their offices.

"I would wear slacks to work and slip away into the bathroom and change into a skirt," she said.

The Air Force base is Utah's largest employer with about 5,000 active-duty members and 25,000 civilians. It is home to the 388th and 419th fighter wings, which fly 48 F-16 jets.

As a logistics-material base, it provides the Air Force with services that keep military weapons systems ready to defend the United States. Hill provides worldwide engineering and logistics management for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. The base also performs depot maintenance on the F-16, A-10, C-130 Hercules and F-22 Raptor aircraft.

The Air Force base has its own flying range in Utah's west desert.

The Utah Test and Training Range is the largest supersonic-authorized and restricted airspace in the continental U.S. The Air Force, Army and Marines all use it for testing of explosives, experimental military equipment and training.

Maj. Gen. Andrew Busch, Ogden Air Logistics Center commander, said Hill's proposed designation as the first operational site for the F-35 Lightning II jet fighter matches perfectly with the base's mission.

Maintenance work on the Air Force's remotely piloted aircraft also is scheduled to come to Hill, which will help solidify the logistics center as the Air Force's premier fighter depot.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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