After World War II, the War Department decided that the American Soldier must be able to live and operate in any degree of cold. This decision was based on experience gained in combat and predictions of future possibilities for international obligations. A group of task forces was therefore organized to test U.S. Army equipment in the cold. Task Force Frigid and Task Force Williwaw were dispatched to Alaska during the winters of 1946 and ‘47. A related trial unit, Task Force Frost, incorporated elements of the 66th Armored Regiment and underwent tests in Camp McCoy, Wisconsin at roughly the same time.
The information and data collected by task force personnel was a beginning, but it took time for men to be transported, to set up quarters for a short period of actual testing, and then pack up and leave until the next year. The expense of moving in and out was taken into consideration when the final reports were filed. When questions arose concerning the reports, there was no one available to answer them, for the task forces had been disbanded, and the personnel returned to their home units. The major shortcomings of these task forces included having insufficient time to establish units on test sites, lack of acclimatization period for both personnel and equipment, and a lack of continuity. Based on these results, it was recommended that a permanent test organization be established, with test groups representing each of the "Army Field Force Boards" located in the "Zone of the Interior."
In 1949, the Department of the Army ordered the organization of the Arctic Test Branch at Big Delta Air Force Base, Alaska (now known as Fort Greely). A cadre for the organization was activated at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in March 1949, by the transfer of personnel from each of the "Army Field Force Boards." The organization moved to Alaska in July of 1949 and test operations were initiated. Shortly thereafter, the organization name was changed to the Arctic Training Center. In 1957, it was renamed the U.S. Army Arctic Test Board, with the mission of conducting Arctic service tests of all Army field equipment.
From 1955, Fort Greely and a huge tract of land around it (withdrawn from the Department of the Interior) were used for training soldiers for cold weather combat during the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.
In August of 1962, as a result of the reorganization of the Army, the Arctic Test Board was established as a Class II activity and placed under the command of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM). The Board was later renamed the Arctic Test Center and expanded to absorb the Research and Development Office, Alaska, the Technical Services Test Activity, and the General Equipment Test Branch, all located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and the Chemical Corps Test Activity at Fort Greely. In 1976, the U.S. Army Arctic Test Center was re-designated the U.S. Army Cold Regions Test Center.
In the 1980s, when the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fort Greely was gradually realigned through a gradual draw-down in the numbers of soldiers.
In 1995, Fort Greely was selected for realignment (but not closure) as a cost-saving measure. Only the Cold Regions Test Center (CRTC) and Public Works functions were to remain on the installation. Large portions of the post were to be closed and, at one point, the main post was to be turned over to the city of Delta Junction for use as a private prison. Ultimately, plans for the prison fell through. In 2001, headquarters for the Northern Warfare Training Center and Cold Regions Test Center were moved to nearby Fort Wainwright. Training ranges were also transferred to Fort Wainwright control and renamed Donnelly Training Area. Though its command moved, CRTC continued operating from Fort Greely. The Northern Warfare Training Center also continued operations at Black Rapids Training Facility.
After the United states announced that it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Fort Greely was selected as a site for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system. Starting in the summer of 2002, the United States government began work on the missile defense installation at Fort Greely, planning to deploy a total of 25 to 30 anti-ballistic missiles by 2010. Concurrently, the Missile Defense Command took command of Fort Greely, relinquishing direct Army control, while the Army retained control of the nearby Donnelly Training Area.
Testing efforts are centered at the Bolio Lake Range Complex, approximately 10 miles south of Fort Greely. Arkansas Range is the main test site for mines and small arms. Washington Range is a multi-purpose range used for air defense missile firings, artillery tests, such as Sense and Destroy Armor (SADARM), and smoke and obscurant tests requiring large areas and mobility testing. Texas Range is available for direct-fire tests, as well as sensor, small arms, and missile tests. Oklahoma Range, primarily used for indirect-fire work, is capable of observed fire to 30km and unobserved fire to 50km.