Air Force Bases

Brooks City Base, Texas

Location: Located 7 miles southeast of San Antonio, TX.

Origin of current name: Named in honor of Cadet Sidney Johnson Brooks Jr, (1895-1917). Cadet Brooks died on November 13th 1917 when his Curtiss JN-4 nosed down as he prepared to land after a training flight at Kelly Field, TX. He was awarded his wings and commission posthumously.

Date current name was assigned to base: June 24, 1948

Previous Names: Gosport Field, prior to December 5th 1917; Signal Corps Aviation School, Kelly Field #5, December 5th 1917; Brooks Field, February 4th 1918.

Date Established: February 16, 1918

Date Occupied: January 29, 1918

Construction Began: December 8, 1917

Changes in Capability: Balloon and Airship School 1919-1923; primary flying school June 1922-October 1931; School of Aviation Medicine transferred from Hazelhurst Field, NY to Brooks Field August 1st 1926; served as a center of observation squadrons, 1931-1940; established as a center of observation training July 1st 1940; established as an Air Corps Advanced Flying Scholl January 1st 1941; School of Aviation Medicine transferred from Randolph AFB, TX to Brooks, becoming a component of newly established USAF Aerospace Medical Center October 1st 1959 (redesignated Aerospace Medical Division, November 1st 1961); all flying activity ceased after June 20th 1960; four newly constructed medical research building dedicated November 21st 1963; UASF Human Resources Laboratory established as a separate organization July 1st 1968; UASF School of Aerospace Medicine, a complex of 18 buildings begun in 1957, completed March 1973; UASF Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory established October 1st 1976; UASF Human Resources Laboratory completed March 1977.

Changes in Status: Assigned as a permanent military post, September 30th 1922; subpost of Kelly Field, TX, July 1st-December 31st 1940; subpost of Randolph Field, TX April 16th-November 30th 1945.


The Brooks City-Base concept is an innovative approach to the economic demands of the post-Cold War era that unites federal, municipal and private resources. In the mid-1990s, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process evaluated military bases across the country for possible closure. Although Brooks AFB was considered for closure in 1995, the unique installation was later removed from the endangered list. The narrow miss served as a wake-up call to Brooks AFB leaders: operations at Brooks had to be streamlined or risk termination. From 1995 through 1997, base leaders created teams to 'reengineer' base operations in order to save millions of dollars annually. In 1997, the City-Base concept, in which the city of San Antonio would take on infrastructure responsibilities in exchange for business opportunities and community development, was developed and presented to Air Force Materiel Command. The plan involved transferring the base to municipal hands, securing private business and academic tenants for some buildings at Brooks, and maintaining Air Force access to those resources necessary to fulfill its mission.

In 1998, a series of conferences resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding drafted between the city and the Air Force, stating their shared belief in the potential of the City-Base project to create economic growth for south San Antonio and turning Brooks into a 'model of base efficiency.' Between 1998 and 1999, a special study of the concept was approved by Congress, an interdisciplinary design charrette was conducted to identify possibilities for integrating public and private resources at Brooks, and Congress passed legislation authorizing the Air Force to conduct a demonstration project at Brooks City-Base. The next year witnessed intense planning sessions in which city and Air Force leaders agreed on terms for conveyance of the base to municipal hands and terms for leaseback of the properties to the Air Force. Furthermore, the Air Force began the long process of compliance with federal laws regulating conveyance of government properties. This involved completion of and Environmental Baseline Study, an Environmental Impact Statement, analysis of historic properties at the base, and a Master Plan, among other undertakings.

In May of 2001, legislators passed Texas Senate Bill 911, allowing for the formation of development authorities to manage base efficiency projects such as the Brooks City-Base project. The next month, Congress accepted the Brooks City-Base Master Plan. These events set into motion the final preparations for administration of Brooks City-Base, including the formation of the Brooks Development Office (BDO) to manage base maintenance and oversight. BDO formally assumed its responsibilities in February 2002. On July 22, 2002, a ceremony was held at Hangar 9, the only remaining building from the original Brooks Field, to commemorate the transition from Brooks Air Force Base to Brooks City-Base. As implementation of the complete Brooks City-Base concept continues, Brooks yet again proves to be the home of pioneers in military innovation and leadership.


In 1916, the U.S. Army Signal Corps, with funds from Congress, began to develop a military aviation program which by 1917 included numerous airfields across the country. The United States' entry into World War I in April 1917 accelerated the Army Signal Corps efforts at training new pilots for the war. As part of this war effort, Brooks Field, named after the deceased San Antonio aviator, Sidney Johnson Brooks, Jr, was formally established on February 16, 1918.

Utilizing Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) aircraft, instructors at Brooks Field trained cadets in the essentials of aviation. In addition, Brooks Field was home to a unique training program using the British Gosport System, which consisted of specialized equipment to allow instructors to speak with students during in-flight training. The wartime use of the Gosport System at Brooks Field facilitated its rapid adoption by all Army flying fields, a development that improved training efforts and reduced fatalities among student pilots. Flight training continued at the field until May 1919, at which point balloon and airship training was introduced at Brooks Field.

The contributions of Brooks Field during these years were vital to the country's war efforts and its contribution to the development of military aviation.


The 1920s were an active period for the young Brooks Field. Established in 1919, the Balloon and Airship School at Brooks Field was one of five national training programs using dirigibles for military purposes. The use of balloons and airships was very important to the U.S. Army Signal Corps, as they provided crucial aerial observation information required for military planning. Due to several spectacular balloon explosions, however, the program at Brooks Field was canceled in 1922 as the U.S. Army reevaluated the usefulness of balloon and airship observation programs.

Shortly thereafter, Brooks Field became the Primary Flying School for the U.S. Army Air Corps and trained all new Army aviation cadets in the basics of flight. Training was rigorous, with fewer than half of the students selected to move on to advanced training. During the Primary Flying School's tenure at Brooks Field, 2,237 students graduated from the program including many notable figures in aviation. Brigadier General Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, received his first formal aviation training at Brooks Field. Other important aviators graduating from Brooks included Nathan Twining and Thomas D. White, both of who became prominent Air Force commanders during World War II. For nine years the school operated at Brooks Field, helping to form the basic structure of the Army Air Corps for decades to come.

In the 1920s, Brooks was also home to the first demonstration of paratrooper warfare. Witnessed by a large audience in 1929, personnel from Brooks Field demonstrated paratrooper tactics by parachuting from planes and setting up combat positions on the ground. The tactic was later used by several military forces in World War II.

In 1926, Brooks Field became the new home of the School of Aviation Medicine (SAM). The school supported the Primary Flying School in a variety of ways including medical examinations for all cadets. Flight surgeons at SAM also performed important research in aviation medicine that helped to ensure the health and safety of future aviators


The 1930s marked a transition for Brooks Field. The Primary Flying School and School of Aviation Medicine continued operation until 1931 when both moved to the newly created Randolph Field in San Antonio. Before the school's departure, however, one of its instructors, Colonel William C. Ocker, developed an innovative system allowing aviators to fly "blind," or in adverse conditions that prevented visual flying. Colonel Ocker's system eventually became known as instrument flying and transformed the practice of aviation.

After the Primary Flying School's departure, Brooks Field became the new home for the Aerial Observation Center which had been stationed at U.S. Army Fort Sam Houston. The new contingent included six observation squadrons which flew Douglas O-43's and other planes to perform reconnaissance duties. The presence of the Aerial Observation Center at Brooks Field attested to the importance that military planners assigned to Brooks in the 1930s.

As the decade progressed, however, aerial observation lost favor to other functions of aviation like bombardment and pursuit. As a result, the program at Brooks Field gradually diminished, with only one squadron left by the late 1930s.


The country's preparations for World War II transformed Brooks Field in the 1940s. During World War II, Brooks Field housed multiple training schools that greatly aided the war effort. One school trained pilots in observation roles: the School for Combat Observers and the Advanced Flying School (Observation) both trained pilots who could serve as co-pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and aerial gunners. The program remained in operation until 1943 when the U.S. Army Air Force reevaluated the requirements of military aviation and disbanded the school. In 1941, Brooks Field became home to an Advanced Flying School training pilots in combat maneuvers using single-engine aircraft. In 1943, training in the school switched to twin-engine aircraft; as a result, Brooks subsequently trained pilots to fly the new B-25 bomber. Both of the Advanced Flying Schools at Brooks Field were instrumental in supplying trained aviators for service in Europe and Asia.

Brooks Field also trained civilians to serve as instructors in pilot training as part of the Student Instructors' Pilot Training School. Students were taught Army pilot procedures and techniques with the intention of teaching at Army Primary Contract Schools.

After the war, Brooks Field was home to several tactical and reserve units. In 1948, Brooks Field formally became Brooks Air Force Base.


The 1950s saw a continuation of reserve training efforts at Brooks Air Force Base (AFB), which hosted the 259th Air Base, 2577th U.S. Air Force Reserve Flying Training Center, the 2577th Air Base Group (ABG), and the 3790th ABG from 1949-58. Training activities increased with the demands of the Korean War (1950-53), but overall, the base was relatively quiet compared to other periods in its history.

Since the early 1950s, however, Brooks AFB had been chosen as the home for a new Aerospace Medical Center, which would include the School of Aerospace Medicine (SAM). In 1957, construction on the new campus-like complex began and two years later, SAM scientists moved from Randolph AFB to the newly completed center at Brooks AFB. The presence of SAM at Brooks AFB signaled its changing mission from that of flight training to aeromedical research. In 1960, the final aircraft took off from Brooks AFB.


Events at Brooks Air Force Base during the 1960s were dominated by the emerging Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. After the launch of Sputnik I in 1957 by the Soviets, the United States began an intensive effort known as the Man-In-Space Program. Crucial to such an endeavor was the work of the School of Aerospace Medicine (SAM), which, while at Randolph AFB in the 1950s, developed innovative research involving man's ability to survive in space. With its new home at Brooks AFB, SAM developed an early relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), providing it with vital aeromedical research which aided NASA's plan (Project Mercury) to send man into space.

Using specialized equipment such as F-100F aircraft, centrifuges, and space cabin simulators, SAM scientists tested and developed numerous aerospace medical innovations, including oxygen environments for space cabins, spacesuits, and onboard life-support systems for NASA's space program. In addition to supporting NASA programs, SAM contributed much of its research to the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program, in which scientists studied the long-term effects of space on astronauts. MOL research included space food development, further spacesuit testing, and testing of cabin environments. Contributions by SAM during this decade proved essential to the success of NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs as well as the later Skylab and space shuttle programs.

During the mid-1960s, SAM introduced wartime medical research because of the growing war in Vietnam. SAM scientists provided the U.S. Air Force with military applications related to the safety and enhancement of its mission in Southeast Asia. In addition to research, SAM flight surgeons traveled overseas to study medical problems on the front lines, and transferred this knowledge to the SAM curriculum.

Brooks AFB also hosted aeromedical evacuation training courses for flight nurses. Operating since World War II, aeromedical evacuation utilized flight nurses and specially-equipped transport aircraft to remove wounded soldiers from battlefields to hospitals. While in flight, flight nurses provided medical care for the wounded. The air evacuation program at Brooks AFB proved vital to the care of wounded personnel in the Vietnam War.


Entering the 1970s, the School of Aerospace Medicine faced dramatic budget reductions, as did much of the military after the nation's gradual pullout from Vietnam. Because of military downsizing, the focus of its research shifted from theoretical to applied, providing direct benefits to U.S. Air Force flyers and personnel. To achieve this goal, Brooks Air Force Base (AFB) focused on its primary missions of research, teaching, and medical support.

Despite budget cuts, the mission of Brooks AFB expanded with the addition of the U.S. Air Force Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory in 1976. The laboratory gave Brooks AFB the ability to analyze chemicals in any substance, and isolate chemicals that might prove harmful to Air Force personnel.

Brooks AFB also was home to the Epidemiology Laboratory which was created to study diseases and how they might impact Air Force personnel. In 1979, the laboratory was selected to conduct a study of the potential harmful effects of Agent Orange used by personnel during the Vietnam War.

Thus, the 1970s saw the base's mission narrowing to one centered on specific research related to U.S. Air Force fliers and personnel.


The 1980s ushered in a new era of responsibility for Brooks Air Force Base. In 1983, the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory was assigned to the base, greatly enhancing its research capabilities. No longer focused just on basic research, the laboratories and research centers of the Aerospace Medical Division (AMD - headquartered at Brooks AFB), incorporated engineering and development programs which allowed it to develop its own theoretical research into actual products, a shift known as technology transition.

Examples of projects that utilized this shift involved chemical defense, on-board oxygen generating systems, crew systems technology, aeromedical system development, and epidemiological studies. The shift in its responsibilities from theoretical to human and weapons systems development resulted in AMD changing its name to Human Systems Division (HSD) in 1987. With the expansion of its research capabilities in the 1980s, the AMD at Brooks AFB hosted the world's largest assembly of human, life, and behavioral science personnel.


Despite the reduction of the U.S. military after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Brooks Air Force Base managed to increase its importance as a U.S. Air Force research institution. To meet the demands of the post-Cold War environment in 1991, the Air Force created four super-laboratories, each of which consolidated individual laboratories across the country. Fortunately for Brooks AFB, it was selected to house the Armstrong Laboratory, which included the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory, the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory, the Harry G. Armstrong Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, the Air Force Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory, and the laboratory functions of the School of Aerospace Medicine .

The research capabilities at Brooks AFB proved vital to the success of the U.S. Air Force's contributions during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991. In addition, the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (AFCEE) was created and located at Brooks. The center is responsible for managing base closures and ensuring environmental safety at Air Force installations.

In 1992, the Air Force merged the Air Force Systems Command and the Air Force Logistics Command into the new Air Force Materiel Command. As a result, the Human Systems Division at Brooks became the Human Systems Center. In 1995, military planners, as a part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), approved the gradual transition in ownership of Brooks AFB from the Air Force to the City of San Antonio.


On July 22, 2002, the City of San Antonio assumed control of the newly named Brooks City-Base (former Brooks Air Force Base). The creation of the city-base was the first of its kind in which the Air Force remained as a tenant but forfeited the responsibility of managing the overall base infrastructure. Scientists at the School of Aerospace Medicine (SAM) continue to perform cutting edge research incorporating the human element into military applications. In addition to research, SAM trains 6,000 students annually in several specialties including aerospace medicine and nursing. Tenants at Brooks City-Base include AFRL and AFCEE. Despite the change in ownership, SAM will continue to provide the Air Force with vital research and education pertaining to its mission.