JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center plays a key role in ensuring Airmen and Guardians can execute missions and deliver airpower and spacepower for America.
"Around the world, our team is dedicated to taking care of Airmen, Guardians and their families," said Maj. Gen. John Allen, AFIMSC commander. "We're providing the combat-ready platforms from which our Air Force launches its missions: our installations."
Stood up in 2015, the center has a short organizational history, but the centralized team of experts celebrates the culture and history of the nine major functional areas that execute AFIMSC's more than 150 capabilities.
"Installation and mission support Airmen have been building and maintaining the force since the beginning of the service," Allen said. "They enabled airpower while supporting the mission, Airmen and families. They laid the foundation, and I'm proud to be part of the team continuing that work today at AFIMSC."
As the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary this month, here are some historical milestones from the functions that make AFIMSC the go-to installation and mission support organization it is today.
On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union closed all surface routes into the western zone of Berlin. The Berlin Airlift – one of the largest humanitarian aid missions in history – began two days later. For 18 months, American cargo planes helped allied aircraft transport 2.3 million tons of cargo – including much-needed food, fuel and medicine – to help citizens in the city. Since then, logistics support to include fuels, plans, supply and transportation has been a major contributing factor in every conflict and humanitarian operation regardless of the landscape. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics."
During the Vietnam War, Air Force Air Police (now called Security Forces) planned, organized and conducted the ground defense of air bases in Southeast Asia. In 1968, they faced their largest combat actions of the war during the enemy's country-wide Tet Offensive. Despite being greatly outnumbered, the air police successfully turned back thousands of Viet Cong at both Bien Hoa and Tan Son Nhut air bases and prevented victory for the enemy. The attacks remain the biggest ground assault on a U.S. air base in the history of the Air Force and lessons learned during the offensive shaped how the career field trains and operates.
Engineers assigned to the newly formed Air Force began careers as air installation personnel in 1947, then installation engineers. By 1959, the function formally was renamed civil engineering. Later, in a 12-month period between 1964 and 1965, both the Prime BEEF and RED HORSE programs were established. Prime BEEF began in October 1964. RED HORSE was established in October 1965 when the first two squadrons -- 554th and 555th -- activated. Together, the programs changed Air Force civil engineering by giving engineers a wartime/contingency mission.
From national defense to humanitarian missions, communication systems and the Airmen who support and maintain them have been integral to mission execution. One system, land mobile radios, are used in a wide variety of day-to-day and emergency missions from security forces and fire departments to civil engineering and airfield management. They are also essential when conducting military operations in austere forward deployed environments. In 2021, AFIMSC established the LMR Product Management Office, centralizing management of the core LMR network and subscriber procurements for all Airmen and Guardians. The move shifted the burden of managing most aspects of the program from major commands and installations to AFIMSC and is expected to save the Air force more than $330 million over the next 10 years.
An important part of the Air Force public affairs mission, photographers and videographers have been supporting combatant commanders and documenting history since the beginning. In 1966, the service activated the Aerospace Audiovisual Service and one of their first missions was managing all photographic functions, except reconnaissance, in Southeast Asia, especially during the Vietnam War. The mission quickly expanded to include all base photo labs, combat documentation and armament recording photography in Southeast Asia. By the 1980s, AAVS adopted the unofficial name combat camera and official re-designation came in the 1990s. No matter their organizational designation, these specialists continue documenting wars, humanitarian missions and other historic moments today.
The Air Force Chaplain Corps transitioned from the Army Air Corps under the leadership of Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Charles Carpenter, the ﬁrst Air Force Chief of Chaplains, on Aug. 16, 1949. Since then, Air Force chaplain teams have been providing pastoral care ministry and counseling to those of faith and those of no faith, and supporting the spiritual resilience of our Airmen and Guardians all over the world.
Airmen, Guardian and Family Readiness and MWR Services
Taking care of military members and their families has always been an Air Force priority and services programs have long provided essential support and resiliency programs to support their needs. In 2010, the then Air Force Services Agency – later redesignated the Air Force Services Center – launched the Food Transformation Initiative to better support Airmen through a larger variety of dining choices and quality meals while transforming dining facility operations. The initiative later evolved into the current Healthy Food Initiative called Food 2.0, a program delivering campus-style meal and snack options and technology advancements at dining facilities and food and beverage operations across the Department of the Air Force.
Air Force acquisition professionals research, develop, acquire and sustain goods and services needed to keep the mission going at all levels. Bound by budget constraints and the need to deliver capabilities faster than our adversaries, the community strives to continually innovate and improve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In 2014, the Air Force Category Management Program was established to help the service find efficiencies in large goods and services contracts. Since implementation, the category management program has improved the strategic nature of Air Force acquisitions, reduced contract duplication and saved more than $2.9 billion.
On Sept. 26, 1947, Eugene Zuckert became the Air Force’s assistant secretary for management and had the responsibility of helping put the new service on a sound financial footing. Since the earliest days of the Air Force, financial management specialists have armed leadership with the data and analyses necessary for informed resource decisions and provided necessary travel financing for Airmen to execute their warfighting missions abroad.
For information about Air Force history and the service’s 75th Anniversary celebration, visit www.af.mil/About-Us/AF-75th-Anniversary/.