JBLM Washington: Exploring Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Pierce County

Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of JBLM Washington State, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is a unique blend of Army and Air Force components. This fascinating combination not only piques our curiosity but also promises a rich history and diverse missions.

JBLM with mountain background

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army

Short Summary

  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is an expansive military installation in Pierce County, Washington providing support to both the US Army and Air Force.

  • JBLM offers a range of services and amenities for service members and their families, including housing options, educational facilities, transportation options & recreational activities.

  • The base provides unique opportunities to experience its rich history through Armed Forces Day each May as well as environmental initiatives that protect habitats & balance operations with the environment.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Overview

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, situated in the scenic Pierce County, Washington, is the result of a 2010 merger between Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base. This combined installation serves both the United States Army and Air Force, providing support to mission commanders and the joint base community, including Air Force personnel. JBLM is home to more than 109,300 personnel. It encompasses four geographical areas:

  1. Lewis Main

  2. Lewis North

  3. McChord Field

  4. Yakima Training Center

The base has come a long way since its early days as Camp Lewis in 1917 and Tacoma Field, renamed McChord Air Force Base in 1940. Today, JBLM is a bustling hub of military activity, offering state-of-the-art facilities, extensive training areas, and a strong support network for service members and their families. The base has even been recognized with several Army Communities of Excellence awards.

Fort Lewis History

Fort Lewis traces its roots back to 1917, when it was established as Camp Lewis. Covering a vast 87,000 acres of glacially-flattened Nisqually Plain, Fort Lewis has played a pivotal role in the training of soldiers for major conflicts, including World War I and II. Its strategic location offers expedient access to the deep water ports of Tacoma, Olympia, and Seattle for deploying equipment, while McChord Field and Sea-Tac Airport facilitate swift personnel transportation.

Over the years, Fort Lewis has grown into a significant military installation, hosting units such as the 2nd Infantry Division, Headquarters 7th Infantry Division, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and 1st Special Forces Group. The base has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to supporting global operations, as evident from its involvement in the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Iraq War.

McChord Air Force Base History

Originally known as Tacoma Field, McChord Air Force Base was renamed in 1940 in honor of Colonel William McChord. Since its establishment, McChord AFB has been a critical strategic airlift base, supporting transport, humanitarian, and air defense roles. McChord Field was a key element of the defense system during World War II. It was responsible for providing training to bomber aircraft pilots who were part of the allied mission to invade Italy, southern France, and conduct the Doolittle Raid.

Today, McChord AFB continues to serve as a vital strategic airlift base, home to the United States Air Force Special Operations Command and the Air Force Reserve Command. The 62nd Airlift Wing, the host unit at McChord AFB, operates the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying out worldwide combat and humanitarian airlift contingencies, airdrop training, and Antarctic resupply missions.

JBLM Mission and Components

JBLM’s mission is to provide training, infrastructure, and support for various military components, including the Active Army’s Contingency Corps and Air Mobility Command. This commitment to service excellence ensures that the base remains an essential asset to the United States military.

The mission of JBLM incorporates the I Corps, an active Army’s contingency corps, and the 62nd Airlift Wing, which is part of the Air Mobility Command. Together, these components contribute to the base’s overarching goal of fostering readiness and preparedness for military operations worldwide.

Active Army’s Contingency Corps

I Corps at JBLM serves as an active Army’s contingency corps, commanding most Army units at the base. As “America’s Contingency Corps,” its purpose is to provide combatant commanders with combat-credible ground forces capable of fighting and winning in large-scale operations. To achieve this, the I Corps headquarters remains prepared to deploy on short notice to any location worldwide, with the capacity to command up to five divisions or a joint task force.

Throughout its history, the I Corps has actively participated in various operations, including the Iraq War, showcasing its dedication to supporting global military objectives. These engagements demonstrate the vital role that the I Corps plays in ensuring the United States’ military readiness and prowess.

Air Mobility Command and Airlift Wing

The 62nd Airlift Wing at McChord AFB is a key component of JBLM’s mission, conducting worldwide combat and humanitarian airlift contingencies, airdrop training, and Antarctic resupply missions. As part of the Air Mobility Command, the 62nd Airlift Wing ensures that JBLM remains a vital strategic airlift hub, supporting global military operations and disaster relief efforts.

Operating the C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, the 62nd Airlift Wing demonstrates its commitment to fulfilling JBLM’s mission, providing essential airlift support and rapid response capabilities in times of need. Together with the I Corps, the 62nd Airlift Wing is instrumental in maintaining JBLM’s status as a premier military installation.

Life on JBLM

Life on JBLM offers a range of services and support for military personnel and their families, including:

  • Quality housing

  • Education facilities

  • Transportation options

  • Recreational facilities

The picturesque views, local recreational activities, and family-oriented atmosphere make JBLM an attractive destination for military families.

With three commissaries and shopping centers offering full PXs, dine-in restaurants, fast food options, various stores, banking, dry cleaning, gas stations, movie theaters, and auto repair facilities, JBLM caters to the diverse needs of its residents. The base also supports a variety of religious denominations, providing facilities for:

  • Jewish worshipers

  • Catholic worshipers

  • Christian worshipers

  • Protestant worshipers

Several other denominations are located nearby.

Family Housing and Support

JBLM provides a variety of family housing options, including apartments and houses, which are part of the Residential Communities Initiative program organized by the Department of Army. With over 4,600 housing units available, the base ensures that service members and their families have access to comfortable and well-maintained living spaces.

In addition to on-base housing, JBLM’s Family Service office assists families in finding suitable off-base housing by working in cooperation with local communities like ours. This support helps make the transition to life on JBLM as seamless as possible for military families.

As for our role at West Coast Veterans, we help active duty military calculate their BAH, get their COE, and walk them through the VA loan application and process.

Education and Schools

Children of JBLM residents attend local schools in the surrounding community, ensuring they receive a well-rounded education while living on base. To support families in their daily routines, bus services are available for transportation to and from school, making it easy for children to attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities.

JBLM also offers the following services and resources for children:

Base Transportation and Amenities

Transportation on JBLM is convenient and accessible, with on-base shuttle services available to residents, as well as off-base options like Pierce Transit and ride-sharing services for those needing to travel further afield. These transportation options ensure that service members and their families can easily access the various facilities and amenities available on and off the base.

In addition to the extensive shopping and dining options on base or nearby, JBLM offers a range of recreational facilities, including:

  • Ice skating (around Christmas time)

  • Golf courses

  • Libraries

  • Dog Parks

  • Gyms

  • Pools

  • Travel services

  • A campground with cabins and RVs available for rent

These amenities cater to the diverse interests of JBLM residents, providing them with opportunities to relax, unwind, and enjoy their leisure time.

Visiting Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Visitors to JBLM must possess either a valid Department of Defense ID or a visitor’s pass issued by the main office. Without either, entry is prohibited. To obtain a temporary pass for base access, you will need:

  • A valid driver’s license

  • Vehicle registration

  • Proof of insurance

  • An adult, authorized sponsor must also be present (18 or older)

With the necessary documentation in hand, guests can enjoy a glimpse of the vibrant military community and impressive facilities that JBLM has to offer.

Each year, during Armed Forces Weekend in May, JBLM grants special access to visitors, offering them a unique opportunity to experience the base’s rich history, state-of-the-art facilities, and dedicated service members. This annual event is a testament to JBLM’s commitment to fostering a strong connection with the local community and celebrating the contributions of its military personnel.

Environmental Initiatives at JBLM

JBLM is deeply committed to environmental initiatives, conducting studies and implementing protections to preserve the natural environment surrounding the base. Since 2002, the Installation Sustainability Program (ISP) has been at the forefront of JBLM’s environmental efforts, making it a leader in sustainability within the Department of Defense. They tout some big goals and have appropriate milestones to get there.

The ISP goals are to increase sustainability and improve their air quality, energy, community, product and materials management, training lands, and water resources by 2040, with some of these efforts wrapping up as soon as 2025.

Through the Environmental Protection Initiative, JBLM has preserved various habitats, including late-successional forests, ensuring that the base’s extensive protected lands remain a vital resource for future generations. These ongoing efforts demonstrate JBLM’s dedication to maintaining a harmonious balance between its military operations and the preservation of the environment.


In this blog post, we have explored the unique history, mission, and life on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. As a combined Army and Air Force installation, JBLM offers a diverse range of facilities, training opportunities, and support services for its service members and their families. With its rich history and dedication to excellence, JBLM continues to be a vital asset to the United States military.

Whether you’re a service member stationed at JBLM or a visitor wanting to learn more about this impressive military installation, the thriving community and dedicated personnel of Joint Base Lewis-McChord stand as a testament to the unwavering commitment and sacrifice of our nation’s armed forces.

If you so happen to be PCSing to JBLM, reach out to us, and we can help make it a breeze. We’ve been in business since 2001 and have helped hundreds if not thousands military families relocate to the area. You can say that we’ve been around the block a time or two.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the biggest military base in Washington?

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is the largest military base in Washington State. Established in 1917, JBLM consolidated to what it is now in 2010 and is located in Pierce County and occupies 142 square miles of land donated by the county to the federal government.

JBLM is home to more than 40,000 active duty personnel, making it the largest military installation in the Pacific Northwest. It is also home to the I Corps, the 62nd Air Force.

Is JBLM one of the largest military bases?

Yes, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the largest military bases in the United States. With a population of around 110,000 people, and its large area, the installation is larger than Fort Bragg and offers a plethora of services to its personnel.

These services include housing, medical care, education, recreation, and more. The base also provides a variety of employment opportunities for both military personnel and civilians. Additionally, the base is home to the base.

Is joint base Lewis-McChord a good base?

Based on positive reviews of its close proximity to Seattle, numerous outdoor activities, and family-friendly atmosphere, JBLM is an ideal base for service members and their families.

What is Fort Lewis known for?

Fort Lewis is best known for its role in training and mobilizing troops, beginning with World War I and continuing up to the present day. From May 1966 to June 1972, the fort trained 302,000 soldiers and deployed them overseas, mostly to Vietnam, and was part of the strong antiwar movement that emerged during this time.

What is the main mission of Joint Base Lewis-McChord?

Joint Base Lewis-McChord serves as a primary training site for Army units and Air Mobility Command, and is responsible for ensuring troops are adequately prepared for operations around the world.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is dedicated to providing the highest quality of service and support to the U.S. military personnel stationed there, helping them be prepared for missions at home and abroad.

Real 5 Star Reviews

We make it happen, and our reputation proves it. Across Facebook, Google, Redfin, and Zillow, we have a combined 4.99-star rating out of 5 from verified home buyers as of 2023. Being in the business since 2001, you can’t buy the reputation as one of the best mortgage lenders in town like us. You’re in good hands with West Coast Veterans.

Our Mortgage Programs

Your Mortgage Lender

Tim Barlow VA Loan Officer in Lacey, WA

Tim Barlow

Founder and President at West Coast Veterans

Hi, I’m Tim Barlow, the Founder and President of West Coast Veterans, a licensed mortgage brokerage specializing in veteran-focused lending. We’ve been serving the needs of active- duty and veteran homeowners for decades, helping them to maximize their VA loan benefits. 

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer using your VA loan eligibility or this is your second time making use of your VA loan benefits, we can help you sort out all the complexities, allowing you to be stress-free during the loan process. 

Take a Closer Look at Who We Are & Serve