San Angelo Field was designated as a site for United States Army Air Corps pilot training on June 21, 1940. The base, located in Tom Green County two miles southwest of San Angelo, opened in August 1940 as the home of the San Angelo Air Corps Basic Flying Training School. On May 27, 1941, the facility was renamed Goodfellow Field in honor of a former San Angelo resident and native of Fort Worth, John J. Goodfellow, Jr., who was killed while serving with the Twenty-fourth Aero Squadron in France during World War I. The first class of aviation cadets arrived for basic flight training in BT-13 aircraft in January 1941. Members of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots began duty in June 1943. In September 1945 the mission was changed to primary flight training. The base was deactivated in May 1947.
Goodfellow Field was reopened in December 1947 as Goodfellow Air Force Base, a basic pilot-training school of the newly independent United States Air Force. In June 1954 the base mission was changed to multi-engine flight training in B-25 twin-engine Mitchell light bombers. Secretary of the Air Force Donald A. Quarles announced in February 1956 that Goodfellow had been designated a permanent military installation. The flight-training mission at San Angelo came to an end on September 3, 1958, with the graduation of the last pilot class. Almost 20,000 officers and cadets had been trained at the Texas base. On October 1, 1958, under control of the United States Air Force Security Service, Goodfellow became the location of a school to provide cryptologic training to students from all four United States military services. Although the mission remained the same, Goodfellow Air Force Base was returned to the Air Training Command on July 1, 1978. Following several threats during the 1970s to deactivate the San Angelo installation, the base was removed from the closure list in 1981 and assigned an additional mission as part of the phased-array radar-warning system, a nationwide network of radar protection against sea-launched ballistic missiles. The actual site of the weapons system, one of only four such systems in the continental United States, was to be a 130-acre tract in the northeast part of Schleicher County, south of San Angelo.
In 1985 the base was designated a technical training center. During the next three years the training center brought to Goodfellow advanced imagery training from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, electronic intelligence-operations training from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, and targeting-intelligence applications and general-intelligence training from Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado. In July 1993 the Seventeenth Training Wing was activated at Goodfellow. The Seventeenth has a long history of combat operations going back to World War I. In World War II the Seventeenth conducted the "Doolittle Raid" on Toyko, Japan. Under the designation Seventeenth Bombardment Wing it participated in the Korean War. During the Vietnam period the wing conducted B-52 refueling. After being redesignated the Seventeenth Reconnaissance Wing in October 1982, it operated TR-1 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft during Desert Shield and Desert Storm on the Persian Gulf. The wing was deactivated in 1991, then was reactivated as the training wing at Goodfellow, after which it provided cryptologic and general-intelligence training for air force, army, navy, and marine personnel as well as students from Allied countries. In the early 1990s the growing base was undergoing extensive modernization. Under construction were new training facilities, dormitories, dining halls, a youth center and new physical fitness center. As the base entered its second half century it was one of the most modern installations of the United States Air Force.