JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — President Harry S. Truman once said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”
With a vision of inspiring and developing Mach-21 Airmen, Air Education and Training Command is ensuring the Air Force’s enlisted history and heroes are remembered through a purpose-built heritage program.
Located mainly on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the Enlisted Heritage and Training Complex uses heritage to train, educate, inspire and recruit Airmen to fly, fight and win the nation’s wars through an extensive array of artifacts and exhibits spanning more than 111 years of aeronautic history.
“The Enlisted Heritage Training Complex exists to show the heritage of enlisted Airmen from the beginning use of airpower in the Army in 1907,” said Joe Orr, AETC historian for curriculum and force development. “Our main focus is to highlight the exploits of enlisted personnel since 1907 to inspire new and current Airmen to strive for excellence.”
The AETC history office owns and is responsible for the EHTC, committed to ensuring the complex will continue to grow and evolve into a world-class training environment for current and future Airmen.
“We want them to learn what it means to be called an Airman and inspire them to follow the example of those who came before them,” said Orr. “We are working right now to expand access to (Basic Military Training) trainees with extended weekly and weekend hours.”
The EHTC began when the Airman Heritage Museum and the Security Forces Museum were combined into a single entity in 2014. These two facilities, along with the airpark and the museum warehouse, make up the training complex, which houses some one-of-a-kind artifacts.
“We have a number of unique displays in the museums and aircraft on static display,” said Orr. “Our displays include a complete Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” in our World War I gallery, a B-24 Liberator nose turret and wind tunnel model in our World War II gallery, the first chamber used to simulate a trip to the moon, a Vietnam War display and a unique working dog display in the Security Forces museum. Our unique aircraft displays also include the first production F-86 Sabre and a reconnaissance version of the F-105 Thunderchief.”
Orr said Security Forces Academy trainees visit the Security Forces Museum just before graduation in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the Airmen who have helped make their career field what it is today.
The artifacts on display have come from multiple sources, to include former Airmen and other museums that have closed, as well as the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Gary Boyd, AETC command historian, said he believes Airmen are a special breed of Americans with a bond deep in history, heritage and lineage.
“Airmen are warriors so loyal and faithful that they will wait almost forever for a missing crew or aircraft to return,” he said. “Some crew chiefs have gone looking for missing aircraft behind enemy lines. Commanders often have to order maintainers, line, services and supply personnel to stand down in darkened, empty revetments many hours after all practical hope of safe return is gone. That spectacle has been repeated in our history. It is a bond of faith that outstrips technology changes or innovations.”
Boyd said the EHTC is something he has had aspirations of completing for a long time.
“This training complex is a dream I have had for many years,” said Boyd. “I hoped we could use history and heritage to inspire Airmen to consider what it means to be an Airman.”
The EHTC is currently open select times Monday through Friday to anyone with access to the installation.