Sheppard AFB

Sheppard Air Force Base originally provided aircrew and aircraft mechanics training during World War II. Today, Sheppard is the largest and most diverse training base in Air Education and Training Command. It is the only Air Force base that is home to both technical and flying training. Sheppard trains pilots and maintainers as well as the propulsion, avionics maintenance, flight equipment, fuels, munitions and aerospace ground equipment specialists needed to keep planes in the air, and the civil engineers, plumbers, telecommunications specialists and electricians needed to keep bases running. Sheppard is also home to the Air Force’s largest technical training wing and the world’s only internationally manned and managed flying training program. Learn more about Sheppard Air Force Base below.

BRAC Status:  Realign Sheppard AFB by relocating to Eglin AFB, FL, a number of front-line and instructor-qualified maintenance technicians and logistics support personnel. This recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 487 jobs.

Location

Sheppard AFB is in Wichita Falls, Texas, situated approximately 130 miles between Dallas and Oklahoma City. Wichita Falls is only 15 miles from the Oklahoma border and the Red River.
4000 Armstrong Drive, Wichita Falls, TX 76305


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A SHORT HISTORY of SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE

For eight decades, Sheppard Air Force Base has been one of the Air Force’s premier training bases, one of the few to host both technical and flying training missions. Today Sheppard produces more technical training graduates—67,000 per year—than any other Air Force tech training base. In fact, it still produces almost half of all technical training graduates. Sheppard also plays a critical international role in developing U.S. and allied airpower, producing highly trained combat pilots for the NATO Alliance, as well as foreign enlisted and officer personnel in a variety of disciplines, from every permanent inhabited continent on the globe.

Sheppard’s Birth

In the crisis-laden months prior to Pearl Harbor, the Air Corps’ rapid expansion threatened to overwhelm the small peacetime Army Air Corps Training School headquartered at Chanute Field in Illinois. In mid-1940, the school encompassed three Army bases: Lowry Field, Colorado, responsible for photography, armament, and clerical courses; Scott Field, Illinois, which taught communications; and Chanute, home to all other technical training courses.
In July 1940, Maj Oscar Beal and Capt Joe A. Miller, both stationed at Chanute, landed at Kell Field, Wichita Falls, Texas’ municipal airport. Their trip was made in response to a letter that Maj Gen Rush B. Lincoln, Commander of Air Corps Technical Training Command, received from Washington. That letter directed General Lincoln to provide an evaluation of Call Field as a potential location for a technical training school. (Call Field had been an Army World War I flight training base located on what is now called Call Field road.) During their brief stop, the two officers met with Fulcher Armstrong, Kell Field manager, and toured the local area to examine possible sites for a large Army Air Corps training school.

Buoyed by the arrival of the two Army surveyors, the Chamber of Commerce solicited funds to acquire options on a number of tracts of land. The city acquired six-month options on 650 acres of land in the immediate vicinity of Wichita Falls. The task of determining the site most suitable for an Air Corps flying base fell to John C. Boyd, the Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial Division Manager. He identified two plots of land near the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad owned by Joseph A. Kemp and Frank Kell, two prominent area businessmen, plus two additional sites near the rail line on the southern and eastern edges of the city.

On 28-29 November 1940, General Lincoln met with local business leaders and toured the four potential sites. The area that most impressed him was several hundred acres of flat land near the present day Sheppard hospital. He liked the flat landscape because it was near the 3,000-foot runway at Kell Field, which could provide Air Corps personnel and pilots easy access to the proposed installation.

On 6 December 1940, Sidney Kring, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce manager, flew to Chanute Field to present the city’s formal bid for a technical school. The effort proved successful. On 19 March 1941, the city learned that the War Department had given its final approval for an Air Corps technical training center. About a month later, on 17 April, Army Chief of Staff Gen George C. Marshall announced that the new installation would be named Sheppard Field, in honor of Texas Senator Morris Sheppard, who had died eight days earlier.
In May 1941, the first contingent of men arrived at Sheppard Field to design and supervise construction of administrative, technical, hospital, and housing facilities. A 20-man permanent party, led by Capt Frank Henley and Lt Edward Kemp (no relation to Joseph Kemp) arrived from Chanute Field on 14 June 1941 to establish a Post Headquarters and Air Corps Supply Depot. The same day the Army Adjutant General’s Office officially designated the encampment as Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, Texas. Two days later, Col Edward C. Black became Sheppard’s first commander.

The notorious North Texas winds and weather caused some construction delays. Until wooden barracks could be constructed, early arrivals at Sheppard lived in a tent city on the west side of Wichita Falls, near the old Wichita Engineering Company. Initially, the War Department planned to use the training facilities solely for an aviation mechanics school. However, on 19 June 1941, the War Department approved a revised training plan that provided Sheppard Field with a dual mission. Along with its Aviation Mechanics School, the base would also serve as a basic training center. In addition to the 16,122 soldiers originally projected for the aviation mechanics program, basic training added another 10,000.

With a pressing need for aircraft maintainers, Sheppard officials were ordered to begin training on 13 October 1941, four days before Army officials dedicated the base, and less than two months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Two hundred twenty students were in the first aviation mechanics course. However, many of the training materials and mechanics tools had not arrived; school officials improvised by borrowing tools from the community, and instructors used barracks as classrooms. In some cases, two or more branches of the Airplane and Engine Mechanics School operated out of a single barrack.

The school trained Airmen to maintain virtually every system used in fighters and medium bombers, and as the threat of war loomed nearer, the planned graduation of 5,000 mechanics a year quickly grew to 40,000 per year. And this in addition to War Department starting basic training at Sheppard on 14 October; the Replacement Training Center commenced basic training with an initial core of 400 students.

World War II Starts

By the time the United States entered the war on 7 December 1941 the fifth class of aviation mechanics increased to 800, while the sixth class, which entered training on 19 December, grew to 900. Under a wartime emergency, Colonel Black added a sixth day of instruction to each of the two eight-hour shifts. By February 1942, all of the post buildings had been erected, including the six academic buildings and five hangars on the north side of the field, while in April 1942, training officials started classes every six day, versus two weeks, to meet training requirements. In October, the school implemented a third shift to accommodate the more than 7,700 aviation mechanics that Sheppard trained during World War II.

Basic training also experienced a rapid growth. During the first three weeks of January 1942, the number of new recruits jumped from 5,500 to 19,000. To keep pace with the significant increase in training requirements, the War Department, in March 1942, authorized an additional $1.6 million for the construction of more than 30 new buildings at Sheppard Field.

In September 1942, glider mechanic training commenced, and glider pilot training started about a year later. This stemmed from the planned use of gliders during the invasion of mainland Europe. The CG-4A, the Army’s standard glider, could transport either 15 fully-equipped soldiers or a quarter-ton truck with crew. Mechanics were needed who could perform routine maintenance and, in an emergency, rebuild wrecked gliders. About 90 instructors, mostly aircraft mechanic graduates, taught an average of 1,440 glider mechanic students per day, with a new class starting every 10 days.

A Liaison Pilot School (predominately for artillery officers, who would act as spotters once graduated), helicopter training for both mechanics and pilots, and flight engineer courses for B-29 and C-82s, followed. Production began to slow in 1944, until the anticipated invasion of Japan called for increased demand for trained Airmen. By war’s end in August 1945, more than 42,000 aircraft mechanics, 1,800 glider mechanics and 445,000 basic trainees had passed through Sheppard’s gates, including Free French mechanics.

Sheppard Field Inactivates…

Training continued, albeit at a much reduced rate. However, Sheppard’s manning peaked at 46,000 in October 1945, when the base served as an Army Air Forces separation center. In March 1946, Sheppard Field instructors leaned their installation would be inactivated as part of the post-war reduction of military forces and infrastructure. For the local community, the news was not welcome. During the waning days of the great depression, Sheppard Field had helped buoy the area’s depressed agriculture and oil-based economy. In its 57 months of operation, the field had pumped more than $100 million into the local economy. On 31 August 1946, Sheppard closed its gates when the War Department placed Sheppard on inactive status. The 3706th Army Air Forces (later, Air Force Base) Unit remained at Sheppard as the caretaker unit. The War Department turned over some buildings to government agencies and non-profit organizations like Midwestern State University, then known as Hardin College, which used some of the dormitories. Vegetation quickly invaded what buildings remained.

… and Reactivates

The ecstatic jubilation that followed the end of World War II faded quickly, however, as the west entered the Cold War with the Soviet Union. On 1 August 1948, twenty-one months after its closure, Air Force leaders reopened Sheppard, now as an Air Force Base. Initially, the base provided basic military training, augmenting the over-taxed facility at Lackland Air Force Base. In January 1949, aircraft maintenance training and helicopter flight training returned to Sheppard as the basic training mission wound down. At the beginning of April, Sheppard’s official mission switched from basic training to aircraft maintenance. Along with this came the influx of training airframes, such as the A- 26, B-25, B-29, and P-47; the first and last proved especially useful in training foreign students. Over time, new types of aircraft arrived, such as the C-124 Globemaster II and B-36 Peacemaker.

Sheppard Becomes a Permanent Installation (and the Korean War Starts)

As a result of the increase in specialized training and the number of graduates, Sheppard began to take on an air of permanency. On 18 January 1950, to the delight of the local community, Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Symington announced he had selected the installation to be a permanent Air Force base. The designation seemed appropriate, as once again the base saw the number of its students and instructors rapidly increase in response to the outbreak of the war in Korea. This immediately accelerated all training activities at Sheppard. Between December 1950 and July 1951, the base’s in-training load increased from nearly 11,000 to over 15,000. Despite going to a three- shift training schedule, Sheppard could not accommodate the influx of new students. For example, in
the three-month period ending 30 September 1951, the aircraft mechanics course fell short some 1,000 graduates. But with the end of the conflict, training fell off sharply, and by mid-1954, Sheppard’s population stood at 9,644, with only 2,919 students in training—the lowest number since the base opened in October 1941.

Enter the Cold War

In conjunction with the Korean War, a growing chill in the Cold War and advances in weapons technology brought about changes in military strength and projection policy. As a result, the US established a large peacetime military. For Sheppard, this included new construction for family housing and training facilities, along with runway repairs. As the Air Force’s composition changed, a combination of additional technical specialties, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles maintenance, and transfer of support functions from the Army, such as civil engineering, communication, comptroller, or transportation meant Sheppard became home to new training courses. Sheppard also hosted Airmen from America’s allies, old and new, from every continent. They not only included future aircraft mechanics, but intelligence analysts and other specialties.

An operational mission came to Sheppard on 15 January 1960 when Strategic Air Command activated a bomb wing. This included aerial refueling and bombardment squadrons with KC-97s and B-52s. Crews trained ceaselessly and sat alert until SAC inactivated the wing in April 1966. However, a detachment maintained an alert presence, at the site now known to us as “the SAC ramp” until the early 1970s. Because of the importance placed on the US’ nuclear deterrence mission, by 1965 Sheppard had graduated over 47,000 specialists from its ICBM courses in a matter of eight years.
Even before the SAC wing left, helicopter training returned to Sheppard in mid-1965. But when the bomb wing left, it opened up facilities for other use. Air Training Command stood up a flying training wing to train US and German Air Force pilots in the T-37 and T-38 aircraft. Before the end of the decade, students came from other countries, predominately Nicaragua, Turkey, and Ecuador. Base closures and mission realignments at other bases also brought new missions to Sheppard, including the move of virtually all Air Force Medical training from Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama. About this same time, Amarillo AFB closed, meaning more aircraft maintenance courses at Sheppard, along with consolidating the vast majority of field training responsibilities at Sheppard. By the late 1960s, Air Training Command focused on increased production demands brought about by the Vietnam war. In fact, about 80 percent of Sheppard’s helicopter pilot training graduates received assignments to Southeast Asia.

The 1970s brought a change to the flying training mission, which previously fell under the Sheppard Technical Training Center. First, in 1971 helicopter pilot training moved to Fort Rucker, Alabama. Then in 1972, Air Training Command activated the 80th Flying Training Wing. Student composition also changed as students from Iran, El Salvador, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and other nations began training under the security assistance program. Finally, in 1978, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization member nations selected Sheppard as their preferred location for the Euro- NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program, or ENJJPT. Training aircraft remained the same expect for the eventual addition of the AT-38B, which the 80th used in the introduction to fighter fundamentals course.

Sheppard’s composition and mission remained steady again for most of the next decade, except for the transfer of all Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile training to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Then in the late 1980s, Base Realignment and Closure actions brought more changes.

The closures of Lowry and Chanute Air Force Bases and a change in training philosophy brought virtually all Air Force aircraft maintenance training to Sheppard, while some courses, such as comptroller and some communication courses, moved elsewhere. The introduction of new courses meant the construction of many new specialized facilities over the next several years.

Exit the Cold War

Even greater changes took place on 1 July 1993 when HQ USAF re-designated Air Training Command as Air Education and Training Command (AETC). At that time, AETC activated two numbered air forces: Second Air Force to manage technical training and Nineteenth Air Force to oversee flying training. At the same time, AETC inactivated all of its training centers and replaced them with wings. Instead of Sheppard Training Center, Sheppard’s host unit was now the 82d Training Wing.

Sheppard’s missions and composition was fairly stable for most of the next decade, but in 2005, a new round of Base Realignment and Closure actions directed all enlisted medical training to transfer to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The majority of the 882d Training Group began relocating in 2010, with the completed in September 2011; as one class ended at Sheppard another began at Fort Sam.

Currently, Sheppard’s host wing consists of three training groups. The 82d and 782d Training Groups offer resident technical training in all aspects of aircraft maintenance and repair, armament and munitions, civil engineering, and supplemental courses in communications. Annually, more than 18,000 military, civilian, and allied students attend more than 380 technical courses provided by these groups at Sheppard, with another 5,550-plus at other locations. Overshadowing the aforementioned groups in terms of graduates is the 982d Training Group, which produces over 35,000 graduates a year. With “The World Is Our Classroom” as its motto, the 982d develops and conducts Air Force Specialty Code-awarding and advanced weapon system training worldwide on aircraft weapons systems, missiles, ground radar, communications, and space systems. Additionally, it provides general courses in ground equipment maintenance, fundamentals of electronics, and technical data usage.

A veteran returning to Sheppard will find it dramatically changed. Everywhere one looks, the base is bursting at the seams with new training and support buildings and renovated training facilities, many the result of the influx of training and students from Chanute and Lowry. Additionally, Sheppard also conducts interservice training for Army and Navy soldiers and sailors, especially the civil engineer career fields. But it’s inside the classroom where those who graduated just 15 years ago would see the most drastic change. Today, Sheppard uses a variety of technology in the classroom.

Since its birth, Sheppard has trained more than 1 million people. It has been a critical part of the United States Air Force’s evolution from a small, obsolete force in the years before World War II to the most advanced air, space and cyberspace force the world has ever seen. The Air Force’s achievements are nothing if not a testament to the importance of training—and much of that training happens right here. Sheppard’s graduates have upheld a vital place in the Air Force mission for nearly 70 years, and have taken a small piece of North Texas with them wherever they go.

82nd Training Wing Mission & Vision

Mission: Train and Inspire Airmen

Vision: The Global Leader for Airmen Development – The Recognized Technical Training Center of Excellence

Motto: Combat Capability Starts Here!

 

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