USAF Airman Heritage Museum, located on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas tells the story of
military training and technical training from the early days of U.S. Air Force history up until
the present time. The Museum collects, researches, preserves, interprets and uses displays of
historical artifacts, paintings, videos, and presentations to tell the training story.
The museum has a fantastic collection of pictures, uniforms, equipment dating back to pre-Air Force days.
As a retired member of the Air Force, I enjoyed my visit to the museum. It brought back special moments for me. I found myself constantly looking for photos of my basic training days. And before you ask, yes they had cameras back then.
The Museum has a special collection of Air Force aircraft, both model and static displays located throughout Lackland. Other areas of interest include exhibits of: WWI and WWII Air Maintenance Shops; basic training dorm from WWI to modern times; Women in the Air Force (WAF) during 1948-1976; Airman Heritage Collection 1917-2011; Pre-Flight/Officer Candidate School (OCS)/Officer Training School (OTS) Collections; Lackland USAF Shooting Team Collection.
Local Training Activity History
It was the foresight of then Kelly Field commander, Brigadier General Frank D. Lackland, to expand the pilot training at Kelly. The land was covered with mesquite and rather large rabbits, but was perfect for the building of a major military training center.
Construction started in June 1941, and the project officer was Lt. Col. Sidney D. Grubbs, who was the first commander of what would later become Lackland AFB. The new development on "The Hill" was designated the Air Corps Replacement Center, Kelly Field, Texas. Its mission was to produce potential Army Air Force pilots. The first group of cadets reported to the new training facility a month before America's entry into WWII.
Many of the buildings first built were "mobilization" barracks, intended to be used for only a short period of time, but some are still in use today. Along with the "Mob" barracks, small tar paper covered, one-story shelters known as "theater of operations" barracks were built during the war. Most of those buildings were demolished in the early 1950s.
On July 4, 1942, Lackland AFB won its independence from Kelly and was named the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. It was composed of a 100-bed hospital, the Army Air Force Pre-Flight Band, eight school squadrons and a host of other activities.
The Center became a very active training base during WWII with more than 100,000 personnel entering officer training through Lackland. Some of the graduates continued their military careers and later reached top leadership positions in the United States Air Force.
During this time span basic military training expanded from six to eight weeks and then 12 weeks in early 1947. The first group of women completed basic training in December 1948. The first female and black students enrolled in the Class 49A of the Officer Candidate School. This event was one of the first efforts of a US military organization to integrate racially.
The efforts of the start of the Korean War were immediate and troubling for Lackland AFB. Lackland became a "tent city" almost overnight. Over 4,000 tents were paced all over the base in every field to house both permanent party and new recruits. In all, some 65,000 recruits were tested, counseled, outfitted and given some initial training between Christmas Day 1950 and 25 January 1951.
After the unbelievable strain put on Lackland due to the Korean conflict in the 1950s, the 1960s represented a relatively calm setting for basic and technical training. The training period was cut to eight weeks and then six weeks in 1964.
A rather special era ended at Lackland in May 190 when Pre-Flight Class 61-02N departed for Harlingen AFB, Texas. This marked the end to pre-flight training at Lackland which was the initial mission of the base in 1941. In the mid-60s the Atomic Energy Commission, which owned Medina Base, transferred the land and buildings to Lackland. The officer Training School, which had been experiencing growing pains, moved from the main base to Medina.
Technical training grew in the 90s, especially the Department of Security Police Training. Increased Air Force responsibility for base protection, the Air Base Ground Defense Course was established. From 1974 on, Security Police throughout the Air Force began practicing combat skills and tactics which soon became the highest priority training program in the Air Force.
On November 30, 1971, six women graduated from the Law Enforcement Specialist Course becoming the first women to complete security police training. Not long after that, the first woman graduated from the Patrol Dog Handler Course in December 1973. After an evaluation of Basic Military Training female volunteers in the confidence course, it soon became a mandatory part of basic training for women. In Jun 1976, Headquarters USAF abolished its Women in the Air Force (WAF) Directorate, eliminating the final distinction between men and women.
Air Force basic training celebrated a milestone in August 1980 with the three millionth graduate. Without a doubt, one of the most visible changes to BMT came in October 1988 when battle dress uniforms (BDUs) were issued to trainees. This new uniform replaced the long-issued green fatigues that earned recruits the nickname "pickles" until they began wearing their blue uniforms. Oh, such memories!
The 90s brought many changes to Lackland and its training. The most significant change to occur since the Korean War era was the relocation of the historic 37th Tactical Fighter Wing. It was re-designated as the 37th Training Wing and replaced the Lackland Training Center and most of its units that had performed training since 1949.
In October 1993, the Officer Training School was moved to Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Officer indoctrination had been a continuous mission dating back to the base's 1941 founding.
In July 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission ordered the realignment of Kelly AFB to Lackland. Over the next few years, Lackland would assume base support for the entities still functioning at Kelly.
Monday - Friday 8am - 4:30pm
Closed weekends and all Federal Holidays
United States Air Force Airman Heritage Museum
5206 George Ave
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas