GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
It’s the middle of September in the year 1918 and the Weather Corps I Operation Order buzzes through the radio, “Visibility: Heavy driving wind and rain during parts of day and night. Roads: Very muddy.” 1st Lt. John J. Goodfellow, a San Angelo native, climbs into his French twin-seat reconnaissance aircraft, the Salmson 2A2, facing the danger of having to fly low due to the storm. A few days after take-off, his body would be found with his plane after being shot down during aerial combat. A couple days after that a government wire would state Goodfellow met death in the air. Several weeks later the Arlington Journal would read “Lieutenant Gives his Life to Help Win Nation’s War,” honoring the first Texas flier to be killed in action during World War I.
This year Goodfellow Air Force Base will celebrate it's 75th Anniversary. But, the celebration isn’t so much about the amount of years but the significance of those years.
Goodfellow Air Force Base began as San Angelo Air Corps Basic Flying School in 1940s, the same year as President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I repeat that the United States can accept no result save victory, final and complete,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Fireside Chat on the war with Japan. “Not only must the shame of Japanese treachery be wiped out, but the sources of international brutality wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken.”
San Angelo began graduating thousands of pilots and the 34th Bombardment Group began moving overseas with the 8th Air Force in England. The 34th Bombardment Group answered the nation’s call repeatedly until September 1958, when Goodfellow graduated the last class of pilots.
From the various mission changes, history can be seen and related.
In October 1958, Cryptologic Intelligence training began at Goodfellow during the Vietnam War, a time of significant technological advances. Four years after cryptologic training began on Goodfellow, photographs taken by U-2 reconnaissance planes began making its impact against the Cuban Missile Crisis and the first photo reconnaissance satellite was launched.
As the world saw the change in military standards and etiquette and saw the change in war tactics, Goodfellow Air Force Base followed as well. In 1974, Norma Brown, the first woman to command an Air Force wing, took command at Goodfellow Air Force Base. Then in 1989, through Base Realignment and Closure Commission, fire protection training would move to Goodfellow Air Force Base and would be the only Air Force Base that would train fire protection professionals for all branches.
The War on Terrorism had its impact on how we trained for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and who we trained. In 2013, Goodfellow Air Force Base began training Royal Saudi Air Force members in specialized intelligence.
For the 75th Anniversary of Goodfellow, service members should challenge themselves to look around and see how the world has molded Goodfellow Air Force Base over time and how that applies to them today. Hopefully, the thousands of students who graduate each year will see how they make their own impact in molding the world.
Facts and dates in this article were obtained by the base historian, Dr. John Garrett.
Goodfellow Air Force Base is hosting 75th Anniversary celebration events throughout 2016.
Some highlights include:
Jan. 26, 2:30 p.m. First base flag raising reenactment at the Norma Brown building flagpole
May 20 Lt. Goodfellow Day
July 4 Fireworks at Goodfellow Air Force Base's Recreation Camp at Lake Nasworthy
Sept. 16 to 20 Capstone event and Founder's Week
Sept. 16 Air Force Ball in the theme of the 75th Anniversary
Nov. 19 Community Appreciation Day with a 75th Anniversary theme