MacDill AFB Editorial by Ralph Williams
About MacDill AFB in Tampa Florida
MacDill AFB is a large US Air Force base in Tampa, Florida. It is accessible from many directions. If coming to the base from the north-east, a slightly longer drive along Bayshore Boulevard and its long continuous balustrade sidewalk (4.5 miles) is some of the most beautiful scenery in the area. The drive is reminiscent of being at the Mediterranean cities of Nice, France and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
MacDill AFB has origins going back to World War II as a US Army Air Corps base. Its main purpose has changed over the decades from one of a Tactical Air Command (TAC), hosting fighter-bomber commands, to its present role as an Air Mobility Command (AMC) hosting the 6th Air Mobility Wing and its squadrons of transport and refueling aircraft. MacDill also has a joint military presence, with the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) and Headquarters, United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The surrounding Tampa area has embraced the presence of MacDill AFB and its partnership in Tampa will continue to remain a mutually beneficial one.
My experiences serving on MacDill AFB involved being in the Navy Reserve during the early 2000s and later on as a military retiree. MacDill AFB serves a large number of active and reserve units notably the Air National Guard who supply a large segment of our Air Force air refueling force. As a reservist I would visit MacDill for military training as it is a central location for military conferences for units spread throughout Florida. As an air base it has large swaths of land dedicated to air operations, one may witness a KC-135 doing take offs and landings or jet trainers practicing touch and goes on the landing strips.
Facilities and Quality of Life
A top reason people like MacDill AFB is the location and scenery. Located within Tampa Bay, there are great views on all sides. The Tampa Bay area contains a large military population of 150,000. An Air Force Times ranking of bases ranked MacDill high due to factors like large supplies of affordable housing, lower costs of living, top commissaries and exchanges, and expansive medical facilities.
From my own experiences, the exchange and commissary are both very nice, being newer facilities with a large food court attached. My wife says she enjoyed shopping at the exchange there, saying it had a large amount of retail floor space and offered a wide assortment of clothes and other products to choose from. MacDill AFB is easy to access. Along with its central location west of downtown Tampa, the base can be accessed from the North Tampa, St. Petersburg, and beaches areas.
The many choices include the Diner’s Reef dining facility (open to retirees according to their website), the SeaScapes Beach House and its adjacent Boomers Bar and Grill, the Fairways Grill located at the golf clubhouse, and the food court located next to the exchange. A choice for every pallet and occasion is available.
Accommodations and Facilities
The MacDill Inn on base is newly constructed and offers over 350 rooms and suites. For RV campers, the base offers 359 full-service sites with power and water and cable TV service. The many amenities on base include a large base pool; two 18 hole golf courses; a 12 hole disc golf course; a fitness center featuring basketball courts, racquetball courts, and a huge gym; a 12 lane bowling alley; a marina with rental kayaks and boats; an arts and crafts shop; a skeet range; and social activities such as bingo and other activities. Check out the base beach and for canine owners, its adjacent dog beach. With its scenic views, MacDill offers some fabulous outdoor recreation.
Military Display Events and Air Shows
As an Air Force base, MacDill holds an annual air show that shows its appreciation to the Tampa Bay community. 2018’s show featured the US Navy Blue Angels, Air Force displays of the new F-22 stealth fighter, KC-135 refueling tanker and A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, along with vintage aircraft from WWII and the Cold War. The base’s new memorial park featuring aircraft model displays will be completed soon. MacDill offers guided tours on a weekly basis by request.
Tampa Bay Area Information
The Tampa Bay area offers everything a large urban area could, plus it’s close to the beaches so one can enjoy a wide range of experiences. The area includes around 3 million residents living in the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and many other towns such as Clearwater Beach. Clearwater and other beaches nearby on the Gulf of Mexico are some of the best beaches in the country. Tampa Bay has several major league sports teams, the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning, and the MLB Tampa Bay Rays. College sports include the USF Bulls. The area also has numerous museums including the Salvador Dali Museum. A large theme park, Bush Gardens, is inside Tampa as well. If you're looking for even more things to do, Orlando and all its attractions is just over an hour away. Many plan a trip to the Tampa Bay area during its Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a large pirate themed festival. Its attendance is about 300,000. Another major event in the Tampa Bay area is the annual Strawberry Festival, bring your sweet tooth for some strawberry shortcake!
Summary of Macdill AFB
MacDill AFB is a modern, well cared for Air Force base in a prime region of Central Florida. The people on base are very friendly to all visitors and coupled with its prime location in Tampa Bay this is an awesome destination for many military personnel and retirees.