Boosters talk Beale Air Force Base’s legacy and future
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By David Wilson
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Beale Military Liaison Council Chair Janice Nall described Beale Air Force Base’s legacy as “long and
storied.” From its start as an Army base in the 1940s to its current mission providing intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to the Air Force.
“With the SR-71 and the U-2 planes calling Beale home, much of the mission was shrouded in secrecy
and at the very least, not widely talked about,” Nall said in an email. “The sounds of freedom at the time
were heard as planes flew over the community on practice runs.”
Today, with the base equipped with the latest sensors and technology, Nall said the sound of humming
computers has joined the planes as part of Beale carrying out its mission.
“The pride we have knowing the best and brightest working 24/7/365 for our nation’s defense are part
of our regional family is off the chart,” Nall said. “On the flip side, we are especially proud to be part of
this regional community who rises to the occasion when there is a need. You can’t get any better than
Tony Bevacqua in on the BMLC board and flew SR-71’s at Beale from 1966 till his retirement in 1973. He
said what has changed since he served and lived on the base is that most people who work at Beale live
outside of the Yuba-Sutter area and commute to the base.
“The base actually, in my opinion, needs more housing,” Bevacqua said.
That doesn’t mean Bevacqua is concerned about the base’s future in the area. He said he sees no
indication of deterioration at Beale.
“We are the ISR high altitude kings, so to speak, of the Air Force,” Bevacqua said. “No one flys above us
and can get the reconnaissance that we can.”
Tom Walther served at Beale and has been active with the BMLC, serving as a board member for six
years. He said the base has many different missions and had a variety of aircraft stationed there. A
critical moment in the base’s history came in the 1980s and 1990s when realignment led to several Air
Force bases in California closing. Walther said BMLC advocated for the base and helped keep the base
He said before BMLC was created in 1985 there was not a connection between the base and the
community. Over the last 35 years BMLC has advocated to improve the quality of life for personnel on
the base and created a bridge between the base and the community.
“It’s just gratifying to see such great people share our community,” Walther said. “They’re a family out
there but also an extended family to the community.”
Nall said the base has an annual economic impact of $647.5 million to the region and is part of the $64
billion impact that defense spending has on California.
“What’s harder to measure is the positive and enriching impact Beale’s airmen and their families have
on our communities by living in our neighborhoods and attending our schools and churches as a result
of fewer homes on base,” Nall said.
Beale being a small rural base means competition is high to be able to access scarce resources, Nall said.
The BMLC is part of the effort to inform the Air Force, Congress and the Pentagon that the base has
unique needs that have to be met. She said while many feel Beale will be a part of the community for
years to come, she would temper that opinion given other states are constantly advocating to have
existing missions moved to bases in their state. Advocating for Beale and improving the quality of life for
base personnel could play into the Air Force’s assessment process for basing new missions.
“I believe that Beale’s legacy is part of USAF’s future,” Nall said. “The discussions I’ve listened to have
been overwhelmingly more about technology and less about planes … We want to ensure a robust base
with the resources (human and financial) to meet and exceed expectations with a plan for the future.”