The host wing is the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which includes an operations group, a maintenance directorate, a mission support group, and a medical group.
The base is named for Edward Fitzgerald Beale.
In 1940, the "Camp Beale" area consisted of grassland and rolling hills and the 19th century mining town of Spenceville. Then Marysville city officials encouraged the Department of War to establish a military facility in the area. The U.S. government purchased 87,000 acres (352 km²) in 1942 for a training post for the 13th Armored Division, the only unit of its kind to be entirely trained in California. Camp Beale also held training facilities for the 81st and 96th Infantry Division, a 1,000-bed hospital, and a prisoner of war camp. Dredge materials from the area's abandoned gold mines were used to build streets at the Camp.
As a complete training environment, Camp Beale had tank maneuvers, mortar and rifle ranges, a bombardier-navigator training, and chemical warfare classes. During WWII, Camp Beale had 60,000 personnel. It also housed a POW camp for German POWs, and served as the main camp for a series of satellite POW camps around northern California.
In 1948, Camp Beale became Beale Air Force Base (AFB), its mission to train bombardier-navigators in radar techniques. The Base established six bombing ranges of 1,200 acres (4.9 km²) each. The U.S. Navy also used Beale AFB for training. From 1951 on, Beale trained Aviation Engineers and ran an Air Base Defense School. These additional activities led to rehabilitation of existing Base facilities and construction of rifle, mortar, demolition, and machine gun ranges. In 1958 the first runway was operational.
One year later, the installation stopped being used as a bombing range and the U.S. Government declared portions of Camp Beale/Beale AFB as excess, eventually transferring out 60,805 acres (246 km²). On December 21, 1959, 40,592 acres (164 km²) on the eastern side of the Base were sold at auction. An additional 11,213 acres (45 km²) was transferred to the State of California between 1962 and 1964, and now comprise the Spenceville Wildlife and Recreation Area. In 1964-1965, another 9,000 acres (36 km²) were sold at auction. In deeds for the former Camp Beale property, the Federal Government recommended that the property have surface use only.
In January 1966, the very first SR-71 Blackbird to enter into service was delivered to the 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at the base.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 5,115 people, 1,463 households, and 1,357 families residing in the base. The population density was 195.9/km² (507.5/mi²). There were 1,662 housing units at an average density of 63.7/km² (164.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the base was 71.53% White, 10.73% African American, 1.13% Native American, 5.20% Asian, 0.59% Pacific Islander, 5.08% from other races, and 5.73% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.20% of the population.
There were 1,463 households out of which 70.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 85.8% were married couples living together, 4.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 7.2% were non-families. 5.0% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.27 and the average family size was 3.38.
In the base the population was spread out with 37.8% under the age of 18, 19.7% from 18 to 24, 40.6% from 25 to 44, 1.8% from 45 to 64, and 0.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 111.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.2 males.
The median income for a household in the base was $33,944, and the median income for a family was $34,667. Males had a median income of $23,581 versus $18,839 for females. The per capita income for the base was $12,096. About 5.7% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.9% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.