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Home : News : News
NEWS | March 11, 2010

Foundation aims for new museum

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

The Lackland Gateway Heritage Foundation has undertaken a multi-million dollar challenge to preserve Lackland's enlisted Airman history.

Armed with determination, a plot of land, an artist's sketch and marketing tools, the foundation has set a goal to build a new state-of-the-art enlisted heritage museum on Lackland with a targeted 2015 completion date. Estimated costs for the facility range from $25 million to $50 million.

"Our vision is to build a museum-learning center that will become the destination of choice for those seeking to learn, understand, admire and respect the full spectrum of our Air Force enlisted heritage," said Jaime Vazquez, board president of the non-profit foundation.

He foresees a facility that brings to life an Airman's enlisted experiences through exhibits and activities, and also provides an understanding to other visitors what it encompasses to be an enlisted Airman.

Even though an Air Force-funded $670,000 project to renovate the History and Traditions Museum began in October, plans are still moving forward for building a new museum.

The 37th Training Wing approved an 80,000-square foot site near the Gateway East main gate along Luke Boulevard, north of the parade grounds.

"We're aiming at a 50,000-square foot facility right now and that puts us at an estimated cost of $25 million," said Mr. Vazquez. "Adding more to the exhibits and equipping it completely will extend the cost. The threshold we're using is $25 to $50 million."

Mr. Vazquez, Chief Master Sgt. Eddie Gilder, 37th TRW superintendent of heritage programs, and Tracy English, 37th TRW historian, recently visited two military museums - the Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Ga., and the Army National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning, Ga.

The Lackland trio toured the facilities, and exchanged information and ideas with museum officials in preparation for its project.

Mr. Vazquez said the Lackland foundation intended to follow the Robins AFB foundation model to pay for the design, construction and equipment for a new museum, and then donate it to the Air Force upon completion.

The Air Force would be responsible for operation and maintenance of the finished museum.

The foundation has a working sketch of the facility, a full color brochure and a Web site, www. No Air Force funds will be allocated for a new museum; the foundation is responsible for a new museum's funding.

"I think this is going to be dictated by how quickly we're able to bring money in," said Mr. Vazquez about the foundation's 2015 time frame. "As soon as we get several key donors to come on board, that would give us a good initial push."

He was in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with the Air Force Sergeants Association executive council about the project, which has the support of its executive director, retired Chief Master Sgt. John R. "Doc" McCauslin. Former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Bob Gaylor has also endorsed building a new museum.

Formed seven years ago, the foundation's original purpose was to promote the heritage of Air Force history at Lackland and ensure the service contributions of Airmen were preserved.

Its main focus had been to support the History and Traditions Museum with limited fundraising - a contribution box at the entrance of the current museum.

Mr. Vazquez, a retired colonel who served 28 years, said the foundation's expanded focal point is encapsulated in the Airman's Creed.

"(Our) mission is to pay tribute to the proud heritage, tradition of honor and legacy of valor of our enlisted Airmen through dynamic exhibits in a state-of-the-art museum for Lackland," he said. "We are here to bring to life those concepts; that's the essence of what we're trying to do."