JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 37th Training Wing and Air Force Basic Military Training recognized its past and unveiled a gateway to the future in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Recruit/Family In-processing and Information Center July 30 here.
The new $22 million facility honors the 10th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Gary Pfingston, who died of cancer in 2007. His widow, Marsha, and their two adult sons, Mark and Brad, cut the ribbon to the Pfingston Center before unveiling an interior exhibit about the late CMSAF.
Marsha Pfingston spoke briefly for the family during the ceremony.
"How humbling, how proud we are," she said, fighting back her emotions. "He loved his Air Force and our family is very proud of him."
"It is an honor to name it after Chief Pfingston because he really represented Airmanship," said Col. Trent Edwards, 37th TRW commander. "His ties to Lackland as a Military Training Instructor, commandant of the MTI School and then to become the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, that's history - that's legacy."
Construction on the 70,306 square-foot facility began in September 2012 and was completed in March. It is located due east of the 737th Training Group headquarters building on Truemper Street and adjacent to the Airman Training Complex east campus. The first Airman's run and retreat and coin ceremonies were held there July 31.
According to the 737th TRG, the center consolidates personnel processing activities previously performed in separate JBSA-Lackland facilities into one location. The facility will receive the newest Air Force recruits for in-processing and also be used by trainees for initial equipment issue, records initiation, Common Access card issue, security clearances initiation, out-processing and dispersing up to 1,000 graduates each week to technical schools throughout the nation.
In addition to reducing costs, manpower, transit times and consolidating personnel, the facility is a centralized location to provide information to more than 300,000 visitors annually who attend the weekly Thursday retreat and coin ceremonies and Friday BMT graduations.
"The Airmen that join the world's greatest Air Force deserve this world-class facility," said Edwards. "That's what this is and what Chief Pfingston represented."
Eric Benken, 12th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, also in attendence, said Pfingston would be very proud that his legacy will live on in the center.
"Gary would often remind us that Lackland truly is the Gateway to the Air Force," said Benken, the ceremony's guest speaker. "This is where we hone young Americans into trainees and Airmen, and start them on the path to success for a life of service to their country."
Pfingston graduated BMT in 1962 and returned in 1973 to become an MTI. After two years as an instructor, he served as military training division chief from 1975-79 and then moved to the MTI School as commandant for two years.
In 1984, he became a division senior enlisted adviser (the equivalent of command chief master sergeant) and went to serve in that capacity for the 12th Air Force and Pacific Air Forces Headquarters. Pfingston was selected the Air Force's top enlisted leader in 1990 and retired in 1994.
"This is where it all starts when young men and women take the first steps on an Air Force journey," Benken said. "Gary loved and embraced the MTI Corps. While he's sitting there getting ready to tee off for a round of heaven golf, know he's looking down with great pride."