This Week In AFLCMC History – February 19 - 25, 2024

  • Published
  • By Air Force Life Cycle Management Center History Office
19 Feb 1934 (AFLCMC/WPAFB)
Three years after a 1930 law gave Postmaster General Walter Brown complete authority in contracting airmail delivery service, Congress investigated him for “fraud and collusion.” President Roosevelt responded with Executive Order 6591 that cancelled the controversial contracts, mostly with airlines, and instructed the Army Air Corps to do the job. The Materiel Division (now AFMC) at Wright Field (WPAFB Area B) managed the aircraft conversion and logistics, while the Fairfield Air Depot (in WPAFB Area A) and other depots worked 24/7 for 11 days refitting the planes, like the Douglas O-25. The first flight took place on Feb 19, 1934. The takeover proved disastrous—66 accidents and 13 deaths—cost Air Corps chief Gen Benny Foulois his job, and revealed how ill-prepared the Air Corps was for operations. FDR returned air mail back to the airlines that summer and, in 1941, the U.S. Court of Claims cleared Brown’s name.
20 Feb 1972 (Mobility & Training Aircraft Directorate)
Today in 1972, Lt Col Edgar L. Allison, Jr. and his crew (consisting of 11 other Airmen) completed a record-setting flight in an HC-130. Taking off from Taiwan’s Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, the crew flew 8,732.09 miles nonstop to Scott AFB, Illinois, without aerially refueling, setting a nonstop straight-line distance record for turbo-prop aircraft that’s withstood the test of time (it remains in place as of writing, likely in perpetuity on account of the category’s retirement due to changes to the sporting code). The flight took 21 hours, 12 minutes to complete, and Lt Col Allison won the 1973 Harmon International Aviation Trophy for it.
21 Feb 1947 (Tinker AFB/Fighters & Advanced Aircraft Dir.)
Today in 1947, technicians at Tinker Field completed work on their first P-47 Thunderbolt overhaul. During WW2, the P-47 gained a reputation for being a highly effective low-level fighter-bomber and bomber escort aircraft, with an aerial kill ratio of 4.6:1. P-47s claimed more than 7,000 enemy aircraft in Europe alone. Rugged and tough, the plane endeared itself to its pilots, who called it the “Jug.” The aircraft saw a number of modifications over the course of the war, with the last variations incorporating bubble canopies for increased visibility, water injection to boost engine power, increased fuel capacity, and other improvements. After the war, Tinker’s role with regards to the P-47 was primarily in overhauling some of the many “Jugs” stored there for use by the Air National Guard. The ANG used P-47s (renamed F-47s in 1948) until 1954.
22 Feb 1973 (Bombers Dir.)
On this date, a cease-fire (the “Vientiane Agreement”) went into effect between warring factions in Laos. It followed the Paris Peace Accords the month before, which ended U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In the weeks between those two settlements, the U.S. Air Force had directed its airpower—primarily in the form of B-52 bombing sorties—against communist forces in Laos. Even after the Vientiane Agreement went into effect, B-52s flew several dozen more sorties following various treaty violations by the signees, with the last B-52 strike against Laotian targets occurring in April 1973. After the U.S. turned its attention away from southeast Asia, the communist forces in Laos were able to eventually take control of the government in late 1975, as they had in Vietnam and Cambodia that April.
23 Feb 1991 (Defense Acquisitions History)
Today in 1991, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued DoD Directive 5000.1, DoD Instruction 5000.2, and DoD Manual 5000.2M. These were the culmination of acquisition reform processes that were set in motion in the mid-1980s and were accelerated by the end of the Cold War that entirely up-ended the geopolitical context. These new and updated policies (the first DoD 5000.1 was published in 1971) represented a significant shift in DoD acquisition procedures, and were meant to “consolidate and integrate acquisition policies, authorities, responsibilities, and procedures while further standardizing documentation formats.” They came on the heels of the announcement of the merger of Air Force Systems and Logistics Commands into Air Force Materiel Command and the waning days of Operation Desert Storm. The Directive, Instruction, and Manual re-placed 65 existing DoD policy guides, significantly streamlining the acquisition process, defined four acquisition categories (ACATs), realigned and renamed program milestones and life cycle phases, and provided for greater OSD oversight of acquisition. These would see further revisions just a few years later.
25 Feb 1959 (AFLCMC)
Sixty-five years ago today, a working group from the Air Force Air Research and Development Command (ARDC), responsible for acquisition from the research phase until systems were operational, recommended a new structure for its field organizations. The success of the new Western Development Division in fielding the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles prompted ARDC to replicate its structure and processes to its other centers, like the Wright Air Development Center. These became “Divisions” by merging them with elements of ARDC’s headquarters and systems-specific development work stripped from its laboratories, in order to institutionalize integrated “systems engineering” across all of its products. New ARDC commander Lt Gen Bernard Schriever later explained the reorganization in comments resembling those on the present-day Air Force’s Great Power Competition re-optimization plans, namely that the Air Force needed: “maximum capability for compressing time between the initiation of developments to the introduction of new systems into the operational inventory.” Two years later, in 1961, ARDC would become the Air Force Systems Command.
AFLCMC Black History Month Highlight:
First Black Female Flying Squadron Commander, Lt Gen Stayce Harris (24 Feb 2001)
On February 24, 2001, then-Lt Col Stayce D. Harris made Air Force history when she became the first black woman to command a USAF flying squadron. She took command of the 729th Airlift Squadron (AS) in ceremonies at March AFB, California.
Harris grew up with an Air Force family—her father was a tech sergeant—and knew early that the Air Force was where she wanted to be. In high school, she joined Junior ROTC, and then continued with ROTC in college. At that time, she was inspired to pursue an Air Force career as a pilot, commenting in an interview that her thought at the time was, “why be a passenger when I can fly the plane all around the world?”
After commissioning with the Air Force and gaining acceptance into Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams AFB, Arizona, Harris delighted in flying in the T-38 Talon—but was frustrated by regulations that prevented women from becoming fighter pilots at that time (1983-1984). It wasn’t until 1993 that women were permitted to fly fighters and bombers. Harris was instead assigned to fly cargo and tanker planes, like the C-141B and the KC-135R.
After pilot training, Harris’s early technical and operational career saw her piloting C-141Bs and working as an Airlift Operations Officer and Air Operations Officer.
A little later (1995-1997), she served as the Mobility Force Planner for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Headquarters AF. Harris’s history-making leadership of the 729th AS in 2001 was followed by three years as the vice-wing commander of the 507th Air Refueling Wing. She made history again in 2005 when took command of the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Andrews AFB, Maryland, making her the first black female wing commander. It was after this command that she made brigadier general (2009), then major general (2013), and finally lieutenant general (2016)—at which point she became the first black woman to hold a three-star position, and the highest-ranking black female aviator, in the Air Force.
As a staff officer, Harris worked largely in the area of force mobilization, before going over to the Air Force Reserve to take command of the 22nd Air Force (becoming the first black woman to command a Numbered Air Force), AFRC, at Dobbins ARB, Georgia, in 2014. It was from that posting that she made history twice, first becoming the first Air Force reservist to be promoted to lieutenant general who was not the commander, AFRC (which was done so that she could serve as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force), and in becoming the first black woman to hold a three-star position as noted above. Her last position with the Air Force before her retirement in 2019 was as Inspector General of the Air Force.