During late October 2012 AeroResource’s Mark Forest and Jason Grant spent the day with Colonel (retired) Jaime Vazquez, President of Lacklands Gateway Heritage Foundation and visited the many aircraft preserved by the foundation along with the many other exhibits preserved round the base.

Set in the largest organisation in the Department of Defence Lackland Air Force Base forms part of Joint Base San Antonio, along with Randolph AFB and the Army’s Fort Sam Houston. In 2005, following the Base Realignment And Closure program (BRAC),  the bases came under one organisation. Lackland is named after Brigadier General Frank Lackland and is known as the “Gateway to the Air Force” and serves as the main entry point to all enlisted Airmen joining the United Sates Air Force (USAF). In excess of 35,000 trainees pass through the gates every year on their road to a career in the USAF. Encompassed within Lackland’s units are the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, Defense Language Institute English Language Center and the USAF’s largest medical facility – Wilford Hall Medical Center.

The Foundation

Run as a non-profit making organisation the private group of volunteers which has 13 members on the board of Directors and is tasked with honouring the Nation’s Airmen, preserving the legacy and history of the enlisted men and women of the Air Force, from World War One through to present day, raising awareness of the USAF, educating future trainees and fund raising for their new $25 million Heritage museum construction. The 80K square feet two storey building has already had the plans approved and is scheduled to open sometime during 2017.

USAF Airmen Heritage Museum

Open from Monday to Friday 8.30AM to 4:00PM and free to the public the impressive collection of 42 aircraft can be viewed (as long you are sponsored onto base) around the parade ground and other areas of the base. Each aircraft on display wears authentic markings and colour schemes representing aircraft from that era. Jaime and the Foundation team have, over many years, had each aircraft painted to match photos of aircraft in the same squadrons with nose art and unit markings to match. Jaime was very keen to show the many original photographs which were used as templates for the collection. The collection of aircraft range from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam through to the mid 1980’s, whilst some aircraft on display have  later variants still in service today – these being A-10s, B-52s, F-15s and F-16s.

Not only aircraft are on show but many collections of historic artefacts are visible in many of the Museum’s buildings. The History and Traditions museum building, WWI & WWII maintenance shop collections, USAF Basic Training dorms WWI through to modern day, Airmen Heritage collection, Pre-flight collections and WAF (Women in the Air Force 1948-1976) all contain collections, artefacts and exhibits pertinent to the rich heritage of the Air Force’s enlisted personnel.

Research collections are also viewable in the archives – a selection of these being the history of Lackland AFB, Enlisted Heritage, History of the USAF uniform, History of Basic Military Training 1947-present and History of USAF officer Training 1947-1993. Also many exhibits representing these collections are on public show throughout the museum.

Educational programs are also a key function of the museum group, raising awareness of the USAFs very rich heritage in the form of organised tours (such as AeroResource’s), lectures, School and educational tours also raising the profile within the military itself. It is quite obvious from viewing the museum’s historic aircraft, grounds, memorials, photos, archives and artefacts that the attention to detail in every aspect of the collection is second to none. The volunteers of the Heritage Foundation should be rightfully proud of their collection, which serves not only to remind the airmen and women of their past, but to inspire them for an equally impressive future.

Security Forces Center

Also situated upon the base is the Headquarters (HQ) for the Air Force Security Forces Center  (AFSFC). Here, Security Police are trained from all around the world to deal with every possible scenario that can happen – from antiterrorism to law enforcement to nuclear threats, it also serves as the executive agency  for the DOD military working Dog program. The AFSFC is seen to be at the cutting for security force training throughout the globe. As part of the Police training a variety of Ground Instruction Aircraft (GIA) have been placed in several locations around Lackland. Types on display range from  GF-16As,KC-135E to F-105Ds. The F-105s have been on base for some 30 years now and are used to train security forces in Flight Line Security. Unfortunately this unique collection of “Thuds” are slowly being removed from the base and shipped to museums and private collectors around the USA, leaving only the Heritage museums F-105s on show.

AeroResource  would like to thank the Public Affairs staff of JB San Antonio for organising visits to almost every preserved aircraft on Lackland AFB, and to our most gracious host Col (ret) Jaime Vazquez for taking time out of his day and long into the night to host a first rate tour of the exhibits. We would also like to thank J Astley and I French for planning and co-ordinating the schedule on base.