NEWS | Aug. 20, 2010

Renovated heritage museum reopens

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

Air Force officials proudly reopened a newly named and completely renovated enlisted heritage museum Aug. 12.

In addition to spending $730,000 to renovate a building that has housed the museum since 1956, the name was officially changed from the History and Traditions Museum to the USAF Airman Heritage Museum.

Gen. Stephen Lorenz, Air Education and Training Command commander, along with 502nd Air Base Wing and 37th Training Wing senior leaders and special guests, cut the ribbon signifying the reopening before an estimated crowd of more than 100 people.

During his remarks, General Lorenz spoke passionately about preserving enlisted Airman heritage.

He described how his grandfather was an aviation cadet in 1917 and rose through the Army's enlisted corps, and the nearly 100-year connection between Lackland and Kelly Field for the military's enlisted.

"Every Airman sitting out here went through basic training (at Lackland)," General Lorenz said. "This museum is the result of a lot of hard work by people in the crowd. In reality, this (renovation) is one step."

The soon-to-be retiring AETC commander emphasized the future need for a new, larger museum, a project the non-profit Lackland Gateway Heritage Foundation has undertaken.

"It (a new museum) would be dedicated to people, not machines," General Lorenz said. "This is a righteous cause for our enlisted force throughout the entire world.

"This is a great museum but it's a step on the journey and we should use it as a springboard into something phenomenal in the later part of this decade. I encourage all of you on this common goal in celebrating Airmen heritage."

The renovation project, a total makeover inside and out, took more than nine months to complete and was funded by AETC, 2nd Air Force and the 37th TRW.

Along with the building upgrades, the museum now has interactive technology, museum quality lighting, 31 exhibits and additional staff.

Basic military training will also benefit from the updated museum. An enhanced educational program utilizing guided lectures about Air Force history and heritage at the museum during Week 7 will be incorporated into BMT.

With the majority of visitors being families of BMT graduates, the staff anticipates attendance to exceed previous levels before the renovation and exhibit expansion.

"We expect attendance to grow," said Chief Master Sgt. Eddie Gilder, 37th TRW heritage program superintendent. "We had been averaging 1,500 to 2,000 a month before we closed and we expect to get back to those levels real fast and exceed them because we do have a lot more to offer."