Brooks celebrates 90th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Rudy Purificato
  • 311th Human Systems Wing

Ninety years of Brooks City-Base aviation and aerospace medicine achievement was showcased February 14th as past and present Air Force scientists and commanders joined the 311th Human Systems Wing to celebrate the 90th anniversary of an historic Texas landmark known originally as Brooks Field.

The event, whose theme was "Still Making History - Our Heritage, Our Future," was hosted by Eric Stephens, who in 2005 made base history as the first civilian director of the 311th Human Systems Wing.

"Today we are still making history, honoring our heritage and looking to the future," Mr. Stephens told attendees who had gathered at Hangar 9, the only original facility left from the airfield that officially became an Army Air Service primary flying base in February 1918.

The base's past and present were represented at the event. It's historic past featured special guests including Mrs. Pam Crane, widow of instrument flight pioneer Col. Carl Crane who developed blind flying at Brooks. He also led a successful campaign to save and restore Hangar 9, a national historic landmark and the only World War I era wooden aircraft hangar that exists in the U.S. Also attending was Dr. Billy Welch, former Armstrong Laboratory director, who helped pioneer early space science studies for the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine.

Today's leaders who attended the event included Major General Tom Travis, Wilford Hall Medical Center commander, who served as the 311th HSW's last military commander; Don Jakeway, president and Chief Executive Officer for the Brooks Development Authority, and Jim Greenfield, BDA board chairman. The BDA is the property manager for the former Brooks AFB.

The celebration began with a dramatization of the life of Sidney Brooks, for whom the base is named. Technical Sergeant Nicholas Hickey, who is assigned to the Mission Support Group, reprised his role as Sidney Brooks, a part he had previously played during the inaugural 2008 Director's Call that kicked off a year-long commemoration of the base's 90 years as the Air Force's center for human performance research.

Former 311th HSW commander, retired Brigadier General John Jernigan, spoke about the base's most recent past in terms of what the Brooks Heritage Foundation has done to preserve base history. The BHF chairman said, "We've accomplished quite a lot during the past 20 years. In 1987, the Brooks Memorial was built. In 1992, the annex was moved (here). It is important that young people are given an opportunity to see the annex and be exposed to (the history of) aeromedical evacuation. In 1993, the excavated remains of Sidney Brooks were re-interred here." General Jernigan also credited the BHF for helping facilitate the move of the F-100F Super Sabre aircraft, used during early weightlessness studies, to the re-located Schriever Heritage Park adjacent to Hangar 9.

The event also featured the history video "From Brooks AFB to Brooks City-Base," which inspired the development of the on-going production of the Air Force documentary "The Story of Brooks."

Through exhibits, the event also highlighted the base's on-going history in terms of advanced technology designed to support warfighter readiness as well as the re-development of the base as a business and technology center. Participating organizations included the 77th Aeronautical Systems Group, the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the Air Force Institute for Operational Health, the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, Human Systems Integration Directorate and the BDA.