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Air University puts the ‘E’ in AETC

  • Published
  • By By Phil Berube, Air University Public Affairs

Air Training Command was the eventual product of the Air Corps Flying Training Command established by the War Department in the midst of the Second World War nearly 80 years ago on Jan. 23, 1942. It took several name and mission changes over the next few years before the department settled on the name Air Training Command in 1946.

It would take almost 50 years, however, for the newly designated ATC to get the letter “E” added to its acronym.

The additional letter in the acronym for what is now Air Education and Training Command comes from Air University, which the War Department established at Maxwell Field as a major command in 1946.

The university’s heritage traces back to the Air Corps Tactical School established at Maxwell Field in the 1930s after it moved from Langley Field, Virginia, in 1931. The ACTS mission was to educate officers in the strategy, tactics and techniques of air power, which inevitably lead to the school being involved with developing air doctrine. In 1942, the War Department shuttered the school, for the most part, as it was posturing Maxwell Field from a peacetime to a wartime base.

On the same day the War Department closed ACTS at Maxwell, the Army Air Forces authorized the establishment of the AAF School of Applied Tactics at Orlando, Florida. The school was to train selected officers and enlisted in the doctrine, tactics and techniques pertaining to their respective specialties.

After several organizational and educational mission changes over the next several years, the AAF School of Applied Tactics was renamed AAF School in June 1945. It moved to Maxwell Field in November 1945 and was redesignated as Air University, a major command under Army Air Forces, on March 12, 1946.

Maj. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild was the first Air University commander. Military historians consider Fairchild and Gen. Carl A. Spaatz, commanding general of AAF at the time, as the “founding fathers” of professional military education. The library at Air University now carries Fairchild’s name—the Muir S. Fairchild Research Information Center—and the university is now the Air Force and Space Force’s center for officer and enlisted professional military education.

From its establishment as a major command in 1946 to when it lost that designation for the first time in 1978, Air University’s educational mission exploded.

During this time, the university established Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, Human Resources Research Institute, Extension Course Institute, Squadron Officer School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Allied Officer Preparatory Phase Course (now International Officer School), among many other educational units.

While the university was growing its geographical footprint, it also gained ownership of the educational programs and activities from outside units. Some of these were the professional continuing education courses taught at the Air Force Special Staff School at Craig Air Force Base, Alabama; the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, from Air Materiel Command; and the Air Force Chaplain School from Air Training Command.

It was on May 15, 1978, that Air University realigned under ATC for the first time. However, ATC did not pick up the “E” for “Education” with the move—it remained Air Training Command, and the university lost its major command status.

For the next five years, Air University continued to gain and establish new academic missions and institutions as a subordinate unit to ATC. Then, on July 1, 1983, the Air Force moved Air University out from under ATC and established it as a major command once again.

Air Training Command finally gained its “E” 10 years later on July 1, 1993, when Air University once again realigned under the training command. The move was the result of the Air Force’s “The Year of Training” initiative. With the transfer, Air University lost its major command status and Air Training Command was redesignated Air Education and Training Command, or AETC.

Today, Air University contributes significantly to AETC’s education and training mission.

Since the start of the 2021 fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2020, through the end of July 2021, Air University has educated and trained:

  • More than 9,000 in officer PME programs.
  • More than 34,000 in enlisted PME programs.
  • More than 33,000 in professional continuing education programs.
  • More than 3,500 officer accessions through Air Force ROTC and Officer Training School programs.
  • More than 12,000 degrees conferred: enlisted and civilian associate degrees, master’s and doctoral.
  • More than 25,000 in leader development programs and courses.

As the nation’s national security requirements have evolved over the years, both AETC and Air University have undergone significant mission changes and growth and are committed to their core missions of recruiting, training and educating exceptional Airmen and Guardians for the future.

For the past 80 years, AETC has been training and developing the “Airmen we need,” and Air University continuously supports this mission. The university aligns the right education at the right time with the right focus and modernizes the learning services environment to enhance overall Airmen development and ensure instant access to learning anytime, anywhere.