Air Training Command
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|Air Training Command|
Air Training Command emblem
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces (1946–1947)
United States Air Force (1947–1993)
|Role||Air Force Basic, Flight and Technical training|
|Garrison/HQ||Randolph Air Force Base, Texas|
Air Training Command (ATC) is a former major command of the United States Army Air Forces and United States Air Force. ATC came into being as a redesignation of the Army Air Forces Training Command on 1 July 1946. Its headquarters were located at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.
Air Training Command's official organs begin with its establishment on 23 January 1941 as the Air Corps Flying Training Command to supervise the three regional Air Corps Training Centers organized in July 1940 and headquartered at Moffet Field, California; Randolph Field, Texas; and Maxwell Field, Alabama. The need for trained ground crews prompted the formation, on 26 March 1941, of the AAF Technical Training Command, which in February 1942 expanded its functions by hastily setting up officer candidate schools to relieve the acute shortage of AAF administrative officers. In 1943 the flying and technical training programs were consolidated under the AAF Training Command, established on 7 July 1943 with headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas.
Six subordinate commands were designated 31 July 1943 and assigned to the AAF Training Command: the AAF Eastern Flying Training Command (formerly the Southeast Air Corps Training Center); the AAF Central Flying Training Command (formerly the Gulf Coast ACTC); the AAF Western Flying Training Command (formerly the West Coast ACTC); the AAF Eastern Technical Training Command; the AAF Central Technical Training Command; and the AAF Western Technical Training Command. The Central Technical Training Command was absorbed into the Eastern Technical Training Command on 1 March 1944.
- Established as Air Training Command on 1 July 1946 by redesignation of Army Air Forces Training Command
- Inactivated on 1 July 1993, assets immediately redesignated as Air Education and Training Command.
- Headquarters, Army Air Forces, 1 July 1946
- Headquarters United States Air Force, 17 September 1947 – 1 July 1993
- Barksdale Field (later, AFB), Louisiana, 1 July 1946
- Scott AFB, Illinois, 17 October 1949
- Randolph AFB, Texas, 15 September 1957 – 1 July 1993
Major components 
Operational history 
World War II 
- see Army Air Forces Training Command for more information
Air Training Command (ATC) traces its history though the history of three World War II organizations: Air Corps Technical Training Command; Air Corps Flying Training Command and Training Command.
The Technical Training Command and Flying Training Command were consolidated on 7 July 1943 as Army Air Forces Training Command, and the combined command assumed responsibility for both flying and technical training. The two training commands had undergone enormous and rapid expansion in an effort to meet the needs of US forces in World War II. The latter half of 1943 inaugurated a period of continuation, refinement, adaptation, and eventual contraction of training for the Army Air Forces. The basic training centers and technical schools had already reached their peaks of production in February and May, but the apexes of training for most other major categories did not occur until 1944. The one exception to this generalization was primary pilot training, which achieved its maximum production level in November 1943, when 11,411 student pilots graduated.
While war continued to rage in the Pacific and Europe in 1944, the training pipeline began to catch up with the demand for most categories of graduates. The high point of training in the standard sequence of flying training occurred, for example, at the end of February 1944, with the peak production of graduate pilots occurring two months later. June 1944 brought the high point in the graduation of four-engine pilots, but the production of aircraft commanders for very heavy bombers continued to rise into 1945.
As World War II approached its conclusion (effectively on 14 August but formally not until 2 September 1945), training activities and the strength of Training Command declined. The end of the war in Europe in May caused the focus of training to shift from the needs of the European Theater to those of the Pacific, particularly courses associated with very heavy bombardment. Then, with the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific, most training ceased for those students not planning to remain in the post-war air forces. Before that time, however, the trend in training had gone increasingly toward specialized training on particular types of aircraft. Then during the last four months of 1945, rapid retrenchment in training occurred, and emphasis shifted to separating people from the Army Air Forces and reorganizing Training Command for its still undetermined peacetime goals.
At the end of World War II, the post-war drawdown resulted in several organizational changes for the Army Air Forces. In February 1946, AAF Training Command's headquarters moved from the leased facility in Fort Worth, Texas to Barksdale Field, Louisiana.
Postwar era, 1940s 
On 1 July 1946, Army Air Forces redesignated Training Command command as Air Training Command (ATC), and designated ATC as one of the new major commands of the postwar AAF organizational structure.
As part of this reorganization, the "command" echelon was eliminated, being replaced by the "division". For that reason on 1 November 1946 Air Training Command adopted a three-division organizational structure – Flying Division, Technical Division, and Indoctrination Division. And in September 1947, the National Defense Act established the United States Air Force as a separate service.
Once the victory in World War II had been gained, the United States plunged into demobilization, just as it had done at the end of the First World War. Officers and men were sent home. Bases were closed. Airplanes were stored or sold. This rapid demobilization led to a massive reduction of ATC installations being declared surplus or being placed in inactive status; leading to a much smaller command than its wartime predecessor. At the beginning of 1945, AAF Training Command had 170 primary installations. At the end of 1946, the new Air Training Command consisted of the following fourteen major units and bases:
- San Antonio, Texas
- AAF Basic Military School, established 1 February 1946
- AAF Officer Candidate School, established 11 July 1947
In 1946 AAF Training Command began its first jet fighter transition course at Williams. However, by early 1947 the AAF had sped up its conversion to jet aircraft. The only way training needs could be met was by limiting course quotas to commands already using jet aircraft. Also, the training program was handicapped by the fact that no dual jet trainer aircraft existed
By 1947 AAF personnel shortages were critical. The Army Air Forces had set a post-war goal of building its strength to 70 groups, however organizing, equipping and manning 55 groups was difficult. Many of the major commands felt their personnel cupboards had been stripped clean in order to accomplish this goal.
In 1948 Air Training Command began rebuilding its training complex. The command was still reeling from the heavy losses it sustained in its instructor force in 1947. Then the personnel withdrawals that had to be made in support of the Berlin Airlift and the expansion of Strategic Air Command combined to handicap even more the training bases just at the time pilot production increased.
Plans called for ATC to add five additional flying stations. By year's end, the command had already activated four: Perrin AFB, Texas; Enid AFB, Oklahoma; Waco AFB, Texas; and Las Vegas AFB, Nevada. In a 17 September letter to the field, Headquarters USAF directed all commands to release many highly experienced personnel in support of the Berlin Airlift. Officials in Air Training Command were so concerned about the effect this loss of personnel would have on mission accomplishment that a return letter was sent to Washington asking which of the new flying training bases—Waco or Enid—was to be written off. The only way ATC was able to provide personnel for these schools was by taking individuals from other bases.
When the Berlin Blockade ended in 1949, the Air Force was again hit with reductions that resulted in forced reorganizations and reduced training. In November 1949, Defense Department directives targeting intermediate levels of command compelled ATC to abolish its three-division organizational structure and take over direct administration of the entire training program.
ATC implemented the Hobson Plan in 1949. Known as the Wing-Base organization, the wing commander would control both the base and the operating units on that base. General organization of the wing included an air base group, a tactical group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group. In ATC a training group replaced the tactical group. This new plan made organizations uniform throughout the Air Force.
The last half of 1949 was an exercise in austerity. President Harry S. Truman decided that the country could only afford a 48-group Air Force. By this time, the Air Force had activated 59 groups. With the new announcement, the Air Force had to shift quickly from expansion to contraction. ATC had to cut flying hours and separate large numbers of reserve officers, as well as convert rated officers to non-rated status. Even with the abolishment of the three divisional headquarters—Flying, Technical, and Indoctrination, ATC operations remained crippled by a lack of funding. Also, because the long runways at Barksdale AFB were better suited to strategic bombers than trainer aircraft, Air Force transferred Barksdale to Strategic Air Command in September 1949. Headquarters ATC consequently was moved to Scott AFB, Illinois, effective 17 October 1949.
The reorganized Air Training Command at the end of the decade began to take the form of the modern Air Education and Training Command of today's Air Force. Its major subordinate units were:
Korean War 
This lull in training production, combined with Fiscal Year 1950 budget cuts, resulted in a shortage of trained manpower when the Korean War erupted on 25 June 1950.
The Air Force initially resorted to an involuntary recall of reservists to fill the gap while Air Training Command expanded its training efforts to meet wartime demands. By 1 July the Air Force had directed ATC to accelerate training to fill the needs of a new 95-wing Air Force. A few days later ATC found itself with a new mission—combat crew training.
The USAF had Far East Air Force engaging in direct combat, and Tactical Air Command mobilizing reserve forces and deploying active duty units and personnel to the combat zone. Strategic Air Command, while not deploying its Atomic-capable strategic bomber force, brought B-29 Superfortresses out of five years of storage and deployed them to Okinawa with combat crews from active duty and reserve units.
ATC's primary mission in the Korean War was to train pilots for combat and to fill the need of the expanded 95-wing USAF. The first school opened at Nellis AFB, Nevada. In August the Air Staff raised the rate of pilot production from 3,000 to 4,000 per year, and by the end of the year, it had climbed to 7,200. At the same time, the need for training technicians also rose. As it had in World War II, ATC met the increased training requirements by contracting with civilian schools.
These were former World War II pilot training airfields that were placed in reserve status after the war. Air Training Command applied the "Air Base" designator to these contractor-operated flying training bases. At about the same time, ATC redesignated the 3595th Pilot Training Wing (Advanced Single-Engine) as the 3595th Training Wing (Combat Crew). On 17 July 1950, Nellis began a special training program to provide 115 combat-ready F-51 Mustang pilots for Far East Air Forces and 92 combat-ready F-80 Shooting Star pilots to serve as replacements for casualties in the first months of the Korean campaign.
Beginning on 24 July 1950, all technical training programs went on a six-day-a-week operation. That reduced by almost 17 percent the amount of time it took to train a technician. Multiple shifts also ran. While this increased the need for more instructors, it limited the amount of housing and dining facilities needed. Along with this, the amount of dormitory space given each student was reduced from 72 square feet (6.7 m2) to 60, and at Keesler and Sheppard AFB the space was even less—only 50 square feet (4.6 m2) per student. Finally, the interval between class entries also decreased. All of this was an effort to train students as quickly as possible and get them in the field.
The announcement of unlimited recruiting in December 1950 caused major problems for Lackland AFB. Clothing and bedding were in short supply, and it got to the point where new recruits were issued only the minimum essentials. Clothing stocks had to be drastically reduced at other ATC bases so recruits could receive essential clothing—although it was impossible to provide exact sizes. Lackland had only been constructed to handle about 28,000 recruits, but by January 1951 the number exceeded 70,000. Officials had no choice but to establish a tent city. Lackland completely exhausted the Air Force's supply of steel folding cots and mattresses. Others had to make do with canvas cots. At one time, the base had almost 10,000 recruits sleeping on canvas cots, without mattresses.
However, there were other problems that weren't so easy to solve. The command soon found itself facing sudden and generally short-range training requirements of an emergency nature. There was no time to prepare, and that meant the quality of training suffered—both flying and technical training. Because troops in the Far East received priority in the supply system, ATC also faced across-the-board shortages in equipment such as armament, radar, aircraft spares, maintenance items, clothing, bedding, and office equipment. Shortages of spare parts even caused a reduction in helicopter training at San Marcos and B-29 training at Randolph later in the war.
As a direct result of the rapid expansion of the training needs of the Air Force as a result of the Korean War, ATC reversed its 1949 decision to eliminate training divisions and consolidate all command level organizations at its headquarters. To leave the command free to serve as a policy-making and planning agency, officials decided to set up three divisions to supervise flying training, technical training, and indoctrination training. Soon after, that became two divisions, when ATC decided to combine technical and indoctrination training under a single headquarters.
Headquarters USAF approved the decentralization in early 1951. While ATC had sought numerical designations for its new air forces—Thirtieth Flying Training and Thirty-first Technical Training Air Forces—USAF officials recommended functional rather than numerical designations. Thus, ATC's new subordinate organizations became the Flying Training Air Force (FTAF) and the Technical Training Air Force (TTAF). Plans called for FTAF to be headquartered at Randolph and TTAF at Lowry; however, the unexpected escalation of training at those bases meant facilities were not available. Thus, ATC established the FTAF headquarters at Waco, Texas near James Connally AFB, and TTAF took up residence at the Gulf Coast Military Academy near Keesler AFB. A third organization, the Crew Training Air Force (CTAF), was activated on 16 March 1952 and headquartered at Randolph.
Cold War 
Even as combat continued in Korea, during 1952 the Air Force expanded to meet the threat of the Cold War with the Soviet Union in Europe, and potentially a direct conflict with Communist China in Asia. As the Air Force expanded to meet those threates, ATC continued to expand as it activated five more flying training bases, bringing the number of primary installations to 42.
During the last half of 1952, however, the volume of training conducted steadily decreased as the supply of trained pilots and technicians met the Air Force demand in almost all areas. Air Training Command reached its Korean War peak of 176,446 personnel in June.
The most important change in the training program involved the inauguration of four-phase pilot training. Phase one of the program included 12 weeks of preflight training. The second phase, called primary training, required 18 weeks and featured 20 hours of T-6 Texan flight training. Phase three, basic flight, lasted 16 weeks and included 130 hours of flying. This phase included flying in both the T-6 or T-28 and in tactical aircraft (T-33 jet trainer, F-80 jet fighter, F-51 conventional fighter, or B-25 multiengine bomber). At the end of the third phase, cadets were commissioned and received pilot wings. When ATC completed its program of decentralization by activating the CTAF in March 1952, it then provided combat crew training to the major combat commands. Crew Training constituted the fourth phase of pilot training and covered an average of 12 weeks.
In 1960, ATC began looking at a new training concept, consolidated pilot training (CPT), combining preflight, primary, and basic instruction. Secretary of the Air Force Dudley C. Sharp approved the idea in March 1960, and Air Training Command intended to have the training program in operation by March 1961. At the same time, Secretary Sharp approved initiation of a consolidated pilot training program, ATC decided to replace all civilian flying instructors with military officers and to phase out all contract primary schools. The last of these closed in spring 1961.
Shortly after the beginning of the Korean War, the Air Staff transferred most of the combat aircrew training mission from the operational commands to ATC, placing an even heavier burden on the command. Air Force directed Air Training Command to double pilot production to 7,200 per year, and to increase technician production to 225,000 per year. With the end of the Korean War on 27 July 1953, Air Training Command again began to reduce its training activities.
Many of the command's facilities were transferred to Strategic Air Command (SAC) and Tactical Air Command (TAC) in the 1950s. Over the next ten years, ATC reduced its bases from 43 to 16, and its personnel from 271,849 to 79,272. In large part this was due to the return of the crew training mission to the operational commands. In 1958, ATC returned bomber crew training to SAC and fighter crew training to TAC.
At about the same time, ATC gained another mission when it took over responsibility for the recruiting mission in 1954. Then in October 1957, Headquarters Air Training Command moved from Scott AFB, Illinois, to Randolph AFB, Texas, in order to reduce operating costs by being closer to its primary training facilities. Its three training air forces were inactivated between 1 July 1957 and 1 April 1958.
One year later, the command began experimenting with eliminating propeller-driven aircraft from primary pilot training. "Project All-Jet" was a success, and in 1959, ATC began replacing the North American T-28 "Trojan" propeller-driven trainer with the Cessna T-37 "Tweety Bird" jet engine primary trainer.
Vietnam War and the 1960s 
In the early 1960s, ATC converted from specialized to generalized undergraduate pilot training (UPT). During this time, the command retired the World War II–era North American B-25 "Mitchell" it had been using for advanced multi-engine training under specialized UPT. Under generalized UPT, all pilots received the same training, regardless of what type of operational aircraft they would ultimately fly. ATC acquired the North American T-38 "Talon" jet, and it became the main advanced trainer aircraft for all student pilots.
The first T-37/T-38 undergraduate pilot training course was held at Webb AFB, Texas, in February 1962. During the next few years, increasing numbers of US service members went to Southeast Asia as military advisors to the South Vietnamese armed forces, but the effect on ATC was negligible.
When president Lyndon B. Johnson increased America's military involvement in South Vietnam in 1965, there was a resultant increase in Air Force military and technical training. However, unlike previous wars, the Vietnam War did not result in a drastic increase in the command's bases or personnel. This was because ATC reverted to a split-phase program of basic military training, and because the command's training philosophy was geared toward generalized rather than specialized technical training.
Pilot training gradually increased as the war dragged on. But officials reassigned many of ATC's best instructor pilots to the operational commands, creating severe flying training difficulties. Then in 1969, ATC's involvement in a program of training and equipping the South Vietnamese Air Force to become a self-sufficient, 40-squadron air force caused technical training production to surge by approximately 50 percent, to over 310,000. This increase, however, was not to last long.
Post-Vietnam and the 1970s 
As popular support for the Vietnam War waned and American forces began to pull out of Southeast Asia, ATC's training requirements gradually diminished. President Richard Nixon ended the draft on 30 June 1973, converting the military to an all-volunteer force. Also, during this period the percentage of recruits with a high school education declined to the lowest point in the history of the Air Force. These factors combined to make the 1970s yet another era of change for Air Training Command.
One change was in the command's approach to technical training. Poor retention rates and the generally lower quality of recruits prompted ATC to shift from a "career oriented" technical training philosophy to one of teaching only those tasks recruits needed during their first enlistment. This reduced the length of training while also lowering training costs. To supplement on-duty training, and in hopes of attracting higher-quality recruits, Air Force established the Community College of the Air Force in 1972 as part of ATC.
Another change came in the form of increased opportunities for women. The first class of 10 women pilots in the USAF received their wings on 2 September 1977, and the first class of female graduates from undergraduate navigator training received their wings at Mather AFB, California, on 12 October 1977.
Other changes came out of the need to reduce training costs in order to fund the F-15, F-16 and A-10 modernization programs. These included closing Craig and Webb Air Force Bases, increasing reliance on flight simulators, and reducing flying hours in undergraduate pilot training.
Still another change was the way in which ATC conducted undergraduate navigator training. In 1978, navigator training shifted from generalized to specialized, with follow-on advanced training specific to the student's career track.
In keeping with the consolidations of the 1970s, Air Training Command assumed responsibility in 1978 for two additional functions: Air University and cryptologic training. Air Force transferred Air University to ATC effective 15 May 1978. This consolidation brought all professional military education under the same roof as basic military, technical, and flying training. However, Air Force officials soon became concerned this arrangement lowered the visibility and diminished the importance of Air War College and the other schools.
Therefore, on 1 July 1983 – little more than five years after the realignment – Air Force once again conveyed separate command status upon Air University. The USAF Security Service at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, had conducted all Air Force cryptologic training since 1958. On 1 July 1978, both Goodfellow and the cryptologic training mission transferred to ATC.
Reagan era and the 1980s 
During the military expansion of the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s, ATC was able to improve training in several areas. The command added more flying hours to the pilot training program and extended the course by three weeks.
In 1984, expanded training budgets allowed the command to change back to a philosophy of training technical personnel to the fullest extent possible, rather than limiting training to the skills needed only for the first enlistment. Technical training courses, especially those in "sortie-producing" specialties, were expanded from generalist courses to specialized instruction. By 1985, the average length for these courses had risen to nearly 17 weeks.
However, several events in the middle and late 1980s brought about the next cycle of restricted military spending affecting ATC's mission. By Fiscal Year 1988, funding for technical training dropped by over 15 percent, and the command had to institute a civilian hiring freeze. Then, in rapid succession beginning in 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War was over. Suddenly, the threat from the East that had dominated American military thinking for decades was gone. Congress quickly cut military spending in response to the diminished threat.
Persian Gulf War and post-Cold War reorganization of the 1990s 
In the midst of these world changes, the Persian Gulf War erupted when Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait on 2 August 1990. In support of wartime demands, ATC deployed over 3,000 command personnel to other commands. Then ATC called up 2,387 individual mobilization augmentee reservists and over 1,000 inactive reservists and Air Force retirees to fill active duty positions vacated by wartime deployments.
Air Force also activated ATC's 11th Contingency Hospital and deployed it to the United Kingdom to treat expected casualties from the war. Fortunately, the Persian Gulf War did not produce large numbers of American casualties, and the conflict was soon over.
Air Training Command got on with the task of consolidating training and in Fiscal Years 1993 and 1994 closed Chanute, Mather, Williams, and Lowry Air Force Bases. However, despite the return to tightened budgets, ATC did not back off from its commitment to fully train personnel to be mission ready upon arrival at their first operational assignment.
An especially important Year of Training initiative was the recommendation to create a single, coherent education and training structure for officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel. As a result of this recommendation, Air Force again merged Air University and ATC, redesignating the command as the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) on 1 July 1993.
- Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Air Education and Training Command (AETC website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource).