Reaching 170 feet in the air, building 100, more recognizably known as the “Taj,” stands with its blue and gold mosaic roof, covered in ceramic tiles, as an iconic representation of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
Built in 1931, the Taj was dedicated as a Texas historical landmark on March 2, 1976, and is officially listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. However, with 85 years of rich history comes a great deal of wear and tear, requiring more than just a fresh coat of paint.
Tracey Powell, 502nd Security Forces Logistics Support Group deputy director of the commander’s action and Taj facility manager, is the woman behind the curtain who ensures operations at the Taj run like clockwork and the building maintains its historic yet restored look.
Powell, who has been in the position for just more than four months, said she takes a sense of pride in her work.
“This building is iconic to the Air Force,” Powell said. “Everybody in the Air Force who sees this building knows what it is and where it is. It’s important to try and keep it in good order.”
Keeping the building in good order can include anything from coordinating to replace stained ceiling tiles, to rekeying locks or even terminating rats. Currently, Powell has more than 50 work orders open, but her main project is to manage getting the Army and Air Force Exchange Service theater up-and-running in the Fleenor Auditorium.
“There’s not a typical day,” Powell said. “You can have your calendar all set for the day, but once you get here that may not be how it works.”
Although her work can be unpredictable, Powell said she tries to begin each day with a walk-through in and around the building. Col. Michael Gimbrone, 502nd SFLSG commander, also does walk-throughs, Powell added.
“Sometimes things will happen – like a lightbulb will go out – and he’ll be in on the weekend and notice it, but hopefully I’ll notice it before he does,” Powell said. “He has done so much for getting this building back in good repair.”
Not only is the 502nd SFLSG the caretaker of the Taj, it also plays a hand in ensuring historical artifacts are in place for tours.
Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Diaz, former Taj facility manager, said she often had people ask why the photo in the Clark Rotunda – named after the designer of JBSA-Randolph, 1st Lt. Harold Clark – did not correspond with the name of the room. Working with just a 1926 black and white photo, Diaz began a quest to have a portrait of Clark created to complete the flow of artifacts.
“I was able to learn and experience working with the Fort Sam Houston Museum, JBSA-Randolph Public Affairs and the 12th Flying Training Wing historians in collecting data to support the artist in capturing the realistic aspects of the portrait,” Diaz, 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of packing and crating, said. “It’s exciting to know the portrait I had a hand in helping create will hang in the Taj for generations to come.”
With a steady stream of projects always on the slate, Diaz said the most challenging part of the job was getting all the required people to the location at the same time.
“So many mission partners have a hand in keeping the Taj in tip-top shape, and it is always a challenge getting everyone’s busy schedules to link up,” Diaz said.
Powell added that it’s a constant learning process and figuring out what part of the 502nd Civil Engineering Squadron needs to be involved can be a challenge.
“Anyone that I’ve had to deal with or that civil engineering has sent over for a project has been fantastic, and it makes it a lot easier,” Powell said.
Another challenge is projects can sometimes take longer to finish or are limited because it can disrupt the historical integrity of the building, Powell said.
“To replace the elevator handle - the historian said they are going to do a replica of it,” Powell said. “They’re going to have to fabricate one because you can’t just put anything there.”
Although there are many tasks of managing the Taj that make it challenging, Diaz said those same aspects are what made the job rewarding.
“The most satisfying aspect of this job is the end result of complete work orders and renovations,” Diaz said. “It’s an amazing feeling to know that you have helped preserve a piece of Air Force history. I am part of a small group of people that have had the opportunity to care for this historic building, which is pretty cool.”
Referring to the special duty as her “baby,” Diaz said it was bittersweet letting go of the Taj after 16 months, but she said she knows Powell will do a great job in embracing the position.
“I know she has the tools and experience to take over the projects within the Taj,” Diaz said.
But Diaz does have one last piece of advice for Powell: Just go with the flow.