This year the Air Force celebrates its 70th birthday and the fourth oldest “continuously active duty flying field” in its inventory will celebrate its 100th.
Located in the heartland of America, Scott Air Force Base is marking this historic milestone tomorrow with a kickoff celebration that will launch a year-long effort to honor its heritage, thank its mission and community partners and posture the installation for the next 100 years.
Special guest Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner will join in the festivities with a proclamation making 2017 the “Year of Scott AFB” for the state. He highlights how Scott AFB remains a “treasured military asset” directly employing 13,000 active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and government service civilian members along with Department of Defense contractors who contribute to a regional economic impact of $3.5 billion dollars annually.
In addition, Air Force senior leaders have sent congratulatory messages that include Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein who reminded Scott Airmen that they “serve in the contrails of airpower’s elites … aviation pioneers … and airlift giants” and that in the past 10 decades there has been no bridge too far for Scott’s transportation and logistics hub.
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Joining the in the congratulations are Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, the Air Force Assistant Vice Chief of Staff; Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody; Gen. Darren McDew Commander, U.S. Transportation Command commander and former Scott AFB installation commander; Gen. Carlton D. Everhart, III, Air Mobility Command commander; and Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert who is representing 39 mayors from the Southwest Illinois Council of Mayors.
“The rich legacy of all of our military services as well as the tremendous community support we’ve enjoyed throughout the years is what makes us strong today, and is what will keep us even stronger as we begin the next century of service,” said Col. Laura Lenderman, 375th Air Mobility Wing and installation commander. “We’re proud of our heritage and honor the men and women who sacrificed, broke barriers, innovated and championed airpower—some at great cost to themselves. We are the benefactors of a collective 100 years of service in a variety of ways—whether it was from military service, or business partners, or in the way of family support. Together we’ve lifted each other and our Air Force to new heights, and this year we plan to recognize and celebrate those achievements as we look forward to building on this foundation of excellence.”
The start of Scott’s incredible 100-years of service began during World War I during which community and business leaders wanted a flying field in the Midwest. They foresaw the location in the Midwest as an integral part for the nation’s defense. Scott Field began as a mere 624 acres, and after 10 decades of growth, it has increased to 3,589 acres that support the nation’s premier transportations cyber hub that hosts 31 mission partners from all branches of the service and the DoD.
After inspecting several sites, the U.S. War Department agreed to the lease on June 14, 1917. Congress appropriated $10 million for its construction, and 2,000 laborers and carpenters were immediately put to work.
The government gave the Unit Construction Company 60 days to erect approximately 60 buildings, lay a mile-long railroad spur, and level off an airfield with a 1,600 foot landing circle. Construction was underway when the government announced it would name the new field after Corporal Frank Scott, the first enlisted service member killed in an aviation crash.
Construction was completed in August, and the first flight from Scott Field occurred Sept. 2, 1917.
Because of the dangers of flying at the time, Scott officers made two air ambulances by modifying Jenny aircraft to carry patients, and on Aug. 24, 1918, Scott’s air ambulance transported its first patient after an aviator broke his leg.
Scott Field’s future became uncertain after the end of World War I as many airfields were closed down, but good news came early in 1919 when the War Department announced it would purchase Scott Field.
A new mission came in 1921, when Scott Field was selected to become a lighter-than-air station.
Many new facilities were built to accommodate its new balloon and airship mission—the most notable being the airship hangar, which was the second largest in the world at that time. Its checkered roof and massive size would have been the most noticeable object by far among the flat patches of farmland. Even two years after Scott had transitioned away from lighter-than-air operations, the airship hangar still stood in 1939 for all to see.
That same year, the Chief of the Army Air Corps decided to stop all lighter-than-air activities, paving the way for new missions. Scott was chosen to become the new home of General Headquarters Air Force, and with that came construction that more than doubled the size of Scott Field, adding nearly 100 colonial-style buildings which still stand today.
The onset of World War II prevented Scott from becoming the Air Force headquarters. Instead, Scott became a communications training hub for the Army Air Forces. During the war, Scott’s Radio School produced graduates that were known for being the "eyes and ears of the Army." In total, the Radio Communications School at Scott graduated 150,000 students.
After the Air Force became a separate service on Sept. 18, 1947, the mission began shifting from technical training to air transport and aeromedical evacuation. By 1959, the last remaining classes at Scott signaled the end of the Communications School, but not the end of the communications and cyberspace mission sets, as those missions continue today.
Today, five separate communications units call Scott home, including the Air Force Space Command’s Cyberspace Support Squadron, 688th Cyberspace Operations Group and 375th AWM Communications Group.
By 1957, Military Airlift Transport Service, the predecessor to Air Mobility Command, took up permanent residence at Scott and oversaw all aspects of global mobility in the Aeromedical Evacuation, aerial refueling, cargo and senior leader transport missions.
By 1964, Scott became responsible for all aeromedical transportation within the United States, and by 1975, the base was responsible for worldwide patient movement via the Patient Airlift Center. The PAC had earlier coordinated 61 aeromedical missions to bring 357 former POWs back to the U.S. During this time, the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing activated, and soon added a fleet of C-9A Nightingales as the backbone for the worldwide aeromedical evacuation system.
Today the 375th is home to one of four active duty aeromedical evacuation squadrons in the Air Force, and is also responsible for training all Air Force AE crews at its geographically-separated unit—the 375th Operations Group Det. 4—located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Det. 4 standardizes qualification training for all reserve, guard, and active duty flight nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians.
Because of advances in both medical techniques and the Air Force’s quick response capabilities, wounded servicemembers have “an incredible 98 percent survival rate” if they reach the aircraft with a heartbeat, with an average return time of a patient to the U.S. under 72 hours.
This is a dramatic increase from the Dessert Storm survivability rate, which was 75 percent—taking an average of 10 days to return.
In Vietnam, the survivability rate was 75 percent, taking an average of 45 days.
OPERATIONAL SUPPORT AIRLIFT
In 1978, the 375th gained another mission: Operational Support Airlift. Scott had received its first T-39A Sabreliner in 1962 and had since been managing a dispersed continental fleet of 104 Sabreliners flying a combined 92,000 hours per year. Even though the T-39As were phased out in 1984, the operational support airlift mission continued with the arrival of C-21A Learjets. The 375th continues flying this mission today, as well as hosting the only formal training unit for C-21 pilots.
As the 375th reorganized during the 90s, it transitioned to an Airlift Wing and then in 2009 became an Air Mobility Wing in conjunction with a new “active associate” partnership with the Illinois Air National Guard’s KC-135 refueling mission. The wing also enjoys a Total Force Association partnership with the Air Force Reserve’s 932nd Airlift Wing in flying the C-40 aircraft for senior leader airlift missions for the DoD. Scott AFB serves as one of six locations in AMC and one of 10 throughout the Air Force where TFA efforts currently exist.
Since the very beginning, the surrounding communities have played an important role in the success of Scott Air Force Base, and community relations remain strong 100 years later. Scott AFB is the largest employer in Southern Illinois and the 4th largest employer in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. Every year, the base injects over $3.5 billion dollars into the local economy and positively impacts over 13 counties in the surrounding areas. Today, Team Scott remains deeply connected to the surrounding communities and works hand-in-hand with local government and civilian organizations on a daily basis.
From security forces and firefighters responding to crises outside the gates when requested during times of mutual aid to medical residents saving lives in the local hospitals, to servicemen and women volunteering across the region, Scott personnel are passionate about making a positive difference and continuing to grow community partnerships.
The men and women serving at Scott are grateful to the surrounding communities, for they could not successfully accomplish the past century-worth of missions without their tremendous support.
CENTENNIAL OPEN HOUSE & AIRSHOW
The kickoff celebration is just one way the base plans to celebrate. There will be many other centennial events through the year both on and off base, but the largest public event on base will be the 2017 Airshow and Open House that’s set for June 10-11 featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. To stay updated on this and many other events and happenings around the base, please visit www.scott.af.mil, which also has quick links to all of Scott’s social media platforms.
In addition to the installation’s 100th Birthday, Scott AFB also is acknowledging 2017 as the 30th Anniversary of U.S. Transportation Command.
CENTENNIAL KICKOFF, JAN. 6, SCOTT EVENT CENTER
▪ 3 p.m. Event Begins
▪ 3:15 p.m. Kickoff video, Governor’s proclamation, mayoral congratulations, senior leaders congratulations
▪ 4 p.m. Starlifter performance
▪ 4:30 p.m. $100 gift card drawings begin
▪ 5:30 p.m. Fireworks
▪ Free refreshments
▪ Music provided by the USAF Band of Mid-America’s Starlifter
▪ Specially designed coins and memorabilia will be for sale for those who’d like to commemorate the occasion.
(Additional information provided courtesy of the 375th AMW History Office)