Education center reflects on 50 years: Part Four – Turning the century

  • Published
  • By Air National Guard Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
The Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

In honor of a half-century of learning, this feature series highlights TEC, from its first classes in a World War II-era aircraft hangar to the present day. Part Four looks back at 1998 to 2008.

The commander, Col. David L. Scobey, retired to hand off the Air Guard’s training and education center to Col. Richard Burris, who became the 6th commander. It was Feb. 12, 1999. After a decade of significant changes on the campus, the world would change in a single day within his tenure.

TEC was noticeably different from when Colonel Scobey took command from Col. Gregory Maciolek in the mid-90s and Col. Larry Martin before him. Those commanders had modernized the organization with a new TEC title, new classrooms, dormitories and sidewalks, and further distance learning and computer-based training programs. 

Approaching the new century, Colonel Burris turned the organization’s sights on improving the departments to “better support the four branches,” which were: The Academy of Military Sciences; the Air Guard Noncommissioned Officer Academy; Multimedia; and Training and Education Development. A more substantial part of that reorganization involved breaking up the support staff as a pooled labor source, sources said. Those staff moved directly under the individual branches.

“The goal of the reorganization was to provide better support for the four branches, each with its own distinctive, although sometimes commingling mission and a wide variety of education programs,” reports stated.

NCO Academy

Reports showed that a significant goal for NCO academy around the turn of the century was to explore and expand its satellite education for mid-level NCOs for the total Air Force in all states and territories.  

The Air Guard’s NCO Academy was the unique enlisted professional military education in the Defense Department that delivered EPME in two formats – the six-week in-resident classes on campus; and the three-and-one-half-month at home station followed by two weeks on campus satellite academy.

Staff strived to ensure instructors were comfortable with both teaching programs, so it shuffled positions to ensure that, officials said. 

Staff changes in a year could include more than a dozen moves, turnovers, and new hires, but instructors were as skilled teaching to physical classrooms as they were to television cameras, reports show. The satellite program streamlined home-based training to four-hour sessions, two nights per week, with students tuned in from across the country.  They were also required to complete 16 hours of physical conditioning.

In 1999, TEC tested a home-station graduation phase in the program, where one instructor would get on a plane to instruct the final two weeks of in-residence at a selected facilitation site – Alaska, Oregon, and Maine participated, among other locations.

Chief Master Sgt. Arthur Hafner III became NCO academy’s ninth commandant in early 2000. He was a Tennessee Guard Airmen who arrived from Maryland after nine years’ assignment at the Air Guard’s readiness center. Before that, he was a former TEC NCO academy instructor who had earned Instructor of the Year in 1987.

Not long after that, the NCO academy graduated its 20,000th student on May 25, 2001 – Staff Sgt. Fredrick Nickerson.

Leadership School Returns

TEC secured an Air Guard Advisor to the Air Force’s Commander for Enlisted PME, with Chief Master Sgt. Bruce Damrow given the responsibility. 

Air Guard NCO leadership school had closed on campus in the mid-90s for the Air Force’s new Airman Leadership School, which combined the first two levels of EPME (leadership school and the preparatory course). 

Individual units instructed ALS to Airmen, but TEC remained involved, which included Chief Damrow’s representation and program management at Air University in Alabama; however, it did not take long for leadership to determine that Airmen could use TEC’s classrooms as the Southeastern in-resident ALS site.  

In-resident ALS classes arrived in two, two-week phases beginning on Jan. 11, 1999. Temporary personnel from the field staffed the program. Training managers used the students’ classrooms to qualify new instructors through an instructor course. It made for good practice and sense, officials noted.

“Conducting the ALS program at TEC proved to be an effective and efficient method of providing the foundation level of enlisted PME to Senior Airmen,” they reported.

Academy of Military Science

The Academy of Military Science expanded to train and commission many officers for the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve. 

Air Education and Training Command’s Gen. Loyd Newton, pinned the lieutenant rank on AMS’s ceremonial 10,000th student, 2nd Lt. John Taylor, on August 20, 1999, during a Class 99-5 graduation ceremony.

AMS then expanded its class size to graduate 100 students per class. In 2002, it readjusted the curriculum and increased its staff to commission about 120 officers at each graduation. 

By mid-June of 2001, Maj. Michael L. Waggett succeeded Lt. Col. Joanna Shumaker as AMS Commandant. Among other assignments, Major Waggett had served as an Air Guard advisor at the Air Force Academy, and he would ultimately become TEC’s commander within the decade.

Although AMS’s fate was undecided at that time, Colonel Waggett and others had awaited a decision of whether the academy would leave to join the regular Air Force’s officer commissioning school in Alabama. 

“… if a decision is made to move the Academy of Military Science to Maxwell AFB, we will hold a large event in conjunction with the last class at the center,” Colonel Waggett wrote in late 2007 to heritage members on upcoming events.

Silver Letters

TEC began a memorialization project in 2001, and during the next year, it dedicated five of the brick buildings constructed the decade before to its influential and founding Airmen. They branded the exteriors with those surnames in large silver letters. You can read more about the dedications here:

TEC named the street in front of the new headquarters building for its founding officer, Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown. Then the classroom building was named Morrisey Hall in October to honor the first commander, retired Col. Edmund Morrisey. “I’m not easily impressed, but having my name stuck on a building is kind of mind-blowing,” Colonel Morrisey said on that day.

In November, retired Army Col. Robert M. Wilson, the brother of Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson who was Chief of the National Guard Bureau when General Brown was Director of the Air Guard, spoke at the dedication of the Wilson Hall activities building. General Wilson died in 1996.

Along with a 65th National Guard birthday cake cutting on December 2001, faculty and staff joined for the headquarters building dedication as Patriot Hall, “in honor of all military personnel from times past and present.”

The following year, the multi-media building was dedicated Spruance Hall in honor of retired Brig. Gen. William Spruance. General Spruance attended the event as the survivor of a near-fatal plane crash who became a reliable campus speaker and supporter. 

Alexander Hall, one of the three dormitories at the time, was dedicated to retired Chief Master Sgt. Lynn A. Alexander, the second senior enlisted advisor of the Air Guard. Chief Alexander was declared “a staunch supporter,” who was also a 1972 NCO academy honor graduate.

Chaplains on Campus

The Chaplain Program continued to provide students and staff a place of spiritual relief and counseling, as well as a source for invocations, benedictions, and worship, reports show.

A groundbreaking ceremony occurred on Jan. 4, 2001, for the Chaplain Training Facility. Still seen today as the building with the steeple, Building 408 was initially built to train chaplains and chaplain assistants. 

In the wave of 9/11 projects, Chaplain Lt. Col. Charles E. Woods said he was sent by the Air Guard's leadership to oversee construction of the building as well as manage and develop its joint disaster response curriculum.

Woods said he handled an initial crisis when rainwater poured down the hill from the TEC campus and flooded their new floor. A drainage ditch was dug around the building to fix the problem, which explains why the structure rests entrenched and surrounded by landscape rock. You can read more about the building here:

Outside of chaplain training, TEC’s Chaplain assigned for staff and students at the time was Lt. Col. Phillip Johnson, who had supported TEC since March 1996. He became TEC’s second chaplain after Lt. Col. David Wollenberg, who had started TEC's chaplaincy on temporary orders in 1987 and became permanent staff in 1988.

Chaplain, Maj. Joe Brando, was also on campus to run the early training programs for chaplains and chaplain’s assistants. He and Chaplain Johnson had both ministered in the Oklahoma City bombing aftermath. Reports stated that it was from those experiences that Chaplain Brando based the Terrorism Readiness Response seminars at TEC on preparing Air Guard chaplains for future emergencies. 

Chaplain Johnson was some 11 miles away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building during the bombing on April 19, 1995. In a news report, he recalled how he stepped outside from his office to see the distant debris cloud. He and Chaplain Brando, and many other Oklahoma Guard chaplains, spent well over a month ministering to those survivors and families. 

Soon after the chaplain training center broke ground, Chaplain Johnson was called away from TEC to help grieving families during the deaths of 18 Virginia and three Florida Guard members, March 4, 2001, in the tragic C-23 Sherpa aircraft crash.

It would not be long after that when the chaplains would witness the murderous attacks of September 11. Records show that chaplain assistant training ceased for a year beyond the terrorist attacks.

Chaplain Johnson retired on April 26, 2002. Chaplain Lt. Col. David Pina arrived the month before taking the assignment as TEC’s third Chaplain. 


Several classes were in session during the Sept. 11, 2001, airline hijackings and attacks.

Officer candidates in AMS Class 01-4, had arrived in mid-August and were ten days from graduating. Their dining-in was September 13. TEC’s first signs of the nation at war included that graduation day, where the newly commissioned officers wore their battle uniforms for the first time in a TEC parade-in-review.

There was no NCO academy on the campus that Tuesday morning, as Class 01-5 graduated just six days earlier. Satellite NCO Academy Class SP 01-4, which had been broadcasting to the Mountain Pacific time zones since June, had two satellite sessions scheduled, that night and Thursday night, to complete the distance learning portion.  Those students’ two-week in-resident classes were expected to begin on campus September 17 but were canceled, more than likely due to flight difficulties.

“One effect of the attack on September 11 can be seen in the number of students in classes,” officials noted in the history report. 

NCO academy usually graduated well over 100 students per class on average, with the most abundant class that fiscal year being 141 Airmen.  Just 57 students enrolled in October’s in-resident class.

According to the reports, there were no Airmen leadership school courses during the time of the attacks.  There was a Training and Education Automated Management System Class that began on September 11 and ran to the 14th. Other PCE students on campus that day were in the Visual Information Managers Course and the PC/LAN Maintenance Class. The remaining professional continuing education classes canceled due to what was described as a “reluctance to travel” for training.

The staff gathered together in the Spruance Hall auditorium that afternoon to discuss the immediate changes in enrollment, schedules, security, local school closings, and other issues. 

“We were watching it on the TVs, and we were immediately put on lockdown,” said Jerry Barnes, TEC’s broadcast director, who was on duty with the multimedia branch that day. Some parking areas near the buildings remain restricted or wholly removed today, he said.

Wrapping Up a Decade 

So much occurred during the few years surrounding the turn of the century, the remainder of TEC’s events, accomplishments, and people during its fourth decade might seem routine or forgotten. The historical archives are sparse for that time.

One highlight during those ten years was when four older men walked onto the campus one day in February – they were Norris Washington, Wilson Eagleson, Dr. John Driver, and Harvey Alexander. What they had to say was not so ordinary, as hundreds turned out to hear them speak.

The Tuskegee Airmen in Wilson Hall told their World War II stories and inspired students and many others with memories of what it means to be an Airman. 

That and many others' TEC contributions and support during the early 2000s keep with those who experienced them. 

Other Notes

Among the interesting facts about the education center from 1998-2008:

1. More than 150 people including staff and alumni attended an 80th birthday party for retired NCO academy commandant, Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford. The group presented Chief Lankford with the Air Guard Heritage Painting of the Bataan Death March. Reports showed that Chief Lankford remained active in his retirement with POW/MIA activities and speaking events throughout the country.

2. TEC never had a First Sergeant, but Colonel Burris obtained that position for the “growing number of enlisted Airmen and for the advocacy it provided.” Master Sgt. Sandra M. Cain, a TEC personnel specialist, was hired as the center’s original First Sergeant. She graduated from the First Sergeant Academy on May 19, 1999. 

3. Col. Barbara A. Eager became TEC’s first female commander on August 13, 2002. The South Dakota Air Guard officer was also the first commander who graduated from TEC’s three primary schools – the leadership school, the NCO Academy, and the Academy of Military Science.

4. The Air Guard Year of the Enlisted Force Quilt – put on permanent display in the Spruance Hall atrium – was conceived in 1998 at the Senior Enlisted Advisors’ Conference in Montgomery, Ala. Each state, territory, and the District of Columbia created a quilt square. They unveiled the quilt at the 1999 Worldwide Command Chief Master Sergeants Conference in Montgomery. 

5. The Multimedia branch established its high reputation with at least 23 DOD-level media awards in video production and broadcasting between 1998 and 2008. The team gained much credibility through its field work and was considered unmatched in its use of technology. The staff of about 20 Airmen broadcast hundreds of hours from the TECTV studios annually as well as traveled for field productions, interviews, and broadcast support at countless events and conferences. 

6. Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Thornell, the NCO Academy commandant from 2003-2006, was appointed as the first enlisted vice commandant for the Community College of the Air Force in 2008. You can read about his appointment here: