Lackland Air Force Base

By: Art Leatherwood

Revised by: J. T. L. English, DAF

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 14, 2018

Lackland Air Force Base, located seven miles west of San Antonio, was originally part of Kelly Field (see KELLY AIR FORCE BASE). Early in World War II (June 1942), it was separated from Kelly and became the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center; it provided classification and preflight training for aspiring pilots, bombardiers, and navigators. By 1945 the base was engaged in the training of personnel for almost every Air Corps need, including fiscal officers, nurses, dentists, medical technicians, psychological research, and a growing enlisted training function. In 1946 the base was renamed Lackland Army Air Field for Gen. Frank D. Lackland, an early commander of Kelly Field, and after separation of the United States Air Force from the U. S. Army in 1948 it became Lackland Air Force Base. It is also known as the "Gateway to the Air Force," as all personnel entering the new branch were processed and trained at Lackland.

The base continued to expand after World War II when training programs were introduced for women and officers entering the Air Force with direct commissions. Lackland gained its first permanent technical training responsibility in May 1954, with the implementation of the USAF Recruiting Course. The first technical training unit arrived on November 20, 1956, when the 3275th Technical Training Group transferred from Parks Air Force Base, California, and brought with it all Air Police training. Throughout the twentieth century Lackland continued to grow with expanded technical training and the incorporation of new tenant units that conducted a vast number of valuable missions for the United States Air Force.

English-language training began on Lackland in 1954 with our foreign partners learning English in order to continue their flying training in the United States. In 1966 the Defense Language Institute English Language Center was established on Lackland and continued the mission of English-language training.

In 1957 Wilford Hall, the largest medical facility in the U. S. Air Force, was completed in part because of the need for a regional hospital to care for soldiers, sailors, and airmen returning from the Korean conflict. By 1958 the Air Force Marksmanship School and the sentry dog training program had been established at Lackland. In 1966 Lackland increased in size after acquiring 3,500 acres from the Atomic Energy Commission at Medina Base. The acquisition doubled the size of the installation and provided more room for the Officer Training School (OTS) and increased technical training activities.

Throughout the 1970s the Basic Military Training Program increased as more young people came into the Air Force; women took on greater rolls in basic training and began accomplishing training once reserved for men, including the physical training session known as the “Confidence Course,” which became a mandatory part of training for women in 1975.

An important mission arrived at Lackland in 1993 in the form of the Inter-American Air Forces Academy (IAAFA). Academy personnel—all bi-lingual Air Force personnel—provided distinct, preeminent instruction in technical training for students throughout the Americas. Late in 1993 the very first mission the base had in 1942 ended with the transfer of the Officer Training School (OTS) to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

The closure of historic Kelly Air Force Base in April 2001 expanded the realm of Lackland as personnel assumed responsibility for the Kelly AFB runway and all property west of the runway. In 2008 a significant change occurred with the Basic Military Training Program as training time increased from six to eight weeks. The need for the change reflected changing times both in the United States and beyond with the need for a more rounded, better trained airman.

In the 2010s Lackland, a component of Joint Base San Antonio, continued to host the largest training wing in the U. S. Air Force and was one of the most diversified USAF installations with missions that extended around the world.

Robert Carlson, "If the Shoe `Shirt, Cap' Fits...," San Antonio, May 1982. A History of Military Aviation in San Antonio (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Defense, 2000). Joint Base San Antonio (, accessed March 6, 2018. Robert Mueller, Air Force Bases, Vol. 1 (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Simpson Historical Research Center, 1982). Texas Parade, May 1966. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Air Force bases; Military posts).

  • Military
Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • San Antonio
  • Central Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood Revised by J. T. L. English, DAF, “Lackland Air Force Base,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

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March 14, 2018

Lackland Air Force Base
Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Bexar County
  • Latitude: 29.38662890°
  • Longitude: -98.61796900°
Population Counts
People Year
9,352 1990
7,123 2000
9,918 2010
10,103 2019