JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The U.S. Air Force Heritage Museum at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland began welcoming basic military training flights on June 1. The purpose of the visit is to familiarize trainees to the historical roots of the Air Force and what it means to earn the title American Airman.
The 322nd Training Squadron reached out to the director of the Airman Heritage Museum, Bill Manchester, to restart the tradition of trainees immersing into the museum and its exhibits. The team determined required COVID-19 safety measures and the first flights were able to begin visiting the museum. Thus far, 392 Airmen across 13 flights have had the opportunity to experience the museum.
“Our primary responsibility [at the museum] is education,” Manchester said, as he noted the importance of the role of the Airmen Heritage Museum. “We want is to acculturate trainees, get them excited about graduation and being Air Force blue. Of course, history and heritage are already part of the BMT curriculum, but it is one thing to talk about it and another to see it with your own eyes.”
During the pandemic, the museum has only been open for training purposes. These initial trainee visits were so successful, the 737th Training Group plans to continue tours for trainees, allowing the museum to hosting an average of 400 trainees per week, including weekends.
As the museum director since February 2019, Manchester has continued to seek improvements for the museums and secure its relevance. Renovating historical stands, adding ventilation and revamping the flow of the museum to accommodate more traffic allowed for the museum to thrive within the past year receiving over 60,000 visitors.
These renovations and other developments to the museum enable it to safely accommodate these volumes of trainees during the pandemic. Trainees and visitors wear masks and museum staff facilitate the flow of people between museum exhibits.
“This museum is a valuable experience for any visitor, but particularly for these trainees who are so close to becoming Airmen,” Manchester said. “It has allowed them to be immersed into the culture and history of the Air Force they are about to enter.”
To learn more about the history of the BMT, the Gateway Wing and the Air Force, visit https://www.bmtflightphotos.af.mil/. The BMT graduation can be live-streamed on Thursdays at 9 a.m. CST on the USAF BMT Facebook Page.