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Building dedication ceremony honors Air Force advocate

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 14, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

The building that houses the 558th Flying Training Squadron was dedicated in honor of the late Oliver “Ollie” Crawford, pilot, U.S. Air Force advocate and former president of the Air Force Association, during a ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Nov. 13.

An electronic display of the plaque designating the 558th FTS building as Crawford Hall was unveiled before Air Education and Training Command senior leaders, including Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, commander of the 19th Air Force, and Lt. Col. Eric Bissonette, 558th FTS commander, and friends and family members of Crawford, including his wife, Nancy.

The plaque will be displayed in front of the entrance to Crawford Hall, with the name designation prominently display on the exterior of the building

Crawford died July 21 in San Antonio, two days after turning 94 years old. Born on July 19, 1925, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II at the age of 18 as an aviation student, earning his wings and commission in early 1945. Crawford served in the U.S. Army Corps Reserve, later the U.S. Air Force Reserve until 1957.

He was one of several Airmen who was a charter member of the Air Force Association in 1946, later becoming president and then chairman of the board of the organization.

Wills said the dedication of the building in Crawford’s honor was a great day for the Air Force. He said naming the training squadron’s building for Crawford was honoring an aerospace legend.

“Today, we gather to honor one of our best,” Wills said. “We built the Air Force on the foundation of those who have come before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Ollie Crawford.”

Retired Air Force Col. James Clark, director for the Q Group,Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability, deputy chief of staff for Strategy, Integration and Requirements at the Pentagon, was a friend of Crawford and his family for 35 years.

Clark said Crawford was one of the best that came out of the greatest generation out of World War II. While Crawford never got the chance to fly a combat mission during the war, Clark said his greatest contributions came after the war ended, which included being one of the charter members of the Air Force Association and raising awareness for the “Flying Tigers,” the group of American volunteer pilots who fought the Japanese before and during the early stages of World War II.

Clark said Crawford logged more than 14,000 hours flying 100 different types of aircraft, including the Curtis P-40 Warhawk, which Crawford flew and was affiliated with for 60 years.  He said he flew the P-40, flown by the “Flying Tigers,” to honor the courage of the flying group.

Clark said through the efforts of Crawford, the “Flying Tigers” were recognized with a Presidential Unit Citation in 1992 and 1996. Gen. Ronald Fogleman, then U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, awarded the “Flying Tiger” pilots the Distinguished Flying Cross and their ground and support crew, including nurses, the Bronze Star Medal.

Speaking to the Airmen in attendance currently attending undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft pilot training, Clark said, “When you walk into this building as a member of the 558th, you are part of a proud legacy. This building honors my friend who was a great American, a great aviator and a true friend.”

Also speaking during the event, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, Air Force Association representative, said  that AFA was a big part of Crawford’s legacy.

“He was a dedicated and unshakeable advocate of air power who worked vigorously to spread the word,” Raaberg said. “He was also fiercely devoted to helping Airmen any way he could.”

Raaberg said Crawford was instrumental in the formation of the Air Force Memorial Foundation, with his efforts leading to the dedication of the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2006.

Raaberg echoed the quotes of Gen. Michael Moseley, former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff at the time the memorial was dedicated, who said “without Ollie, there would not be an Air Force Memorial.”

Col. Mark Robinson, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, said the contributions and advocacy of Crawford serve as an inspiration to the members of the 558th.

“It’s fitting that the aviators who will continue to pass through these doors onto this very stage, unwinged upon entry, winged upon exit, will now be following in the footsteps and the legacy of an Air Force and air power hero,” Robinson said.

Nancy Crawford said nothing makes her feel prouder than having a building named after her husband, where future RPA pilots are trained.

“It just fills me with a sense of joy to know that he is being recognized and that as long as Randolph is there, Ollie’s name will be there,” she said.