Air & Space Power Journal - Español Tercer Trimestre 2005

Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute

The United States Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall

Honoring the Past, Preparing For the Future

TSgt Daniel Lawless, USAF

There are certain things every good Airman should be aware of. They should have intrical knowledge of their jobs and standards of conduct. They should know their chain of command and the expectations of their superiors. However, another base of information Airmen should all possess is knowledge of where they, as an enlisted force, came from. For the Unites States Air Force, this knowledge is waiting to be absorbed at the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute on Maxwell AFB (Gunter Annex), Alabama. Home of the Enlisted Heritage Hall.

The Heritage Hall began in 1983 by the commandant of the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, CMSgt Bobby Renfroe. His dream was to preserve, protect, and tell the accomplishments of the Air Force enlisted corps. That vision grew from a simple display in the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy lobby to its current state, an official Air Force historical center that boasts a 10,000 square foot interactive facility dedicated to capturing the innovation, patriotism, leadership, and heroism of stripe wearing airmen.

The Enlisted Heritage Hall has been dubbed "A Place of Honor" with good reason. As patrons enter the facility, they are greeted with a series of six portraits depicting those enlisted members who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Narratives provide background into who these heroes were and what they did to earn the highest decoration the United States awards.

One of the six enlisted Medal of Honor Recipient, John Levitow

One of the six enlisted Medal of Honor Recipient, John Levitow

Continuing the tour, you will find exhibits honoring American Airmen who endured the hardship of being a Prisoner Of War as well as those who persevered through racial and gender inequality. Prominent in these displays is a tribute to Corporal Eugene Bullard, the first African-American enlisted pilot. Not only do these displays pay tribute to the perseverance of the American spirit, they also provide motivation and education to today’s airmen about sacrifice, service

Ester Blake, first enlisted woman

Ester Blake, first enlisted woman

Other exhibits include pioneers of aviation including Corporal Edward Ward who holds the distinction of being the first enlisted member of the Army’s newly formed Signal Corps in 1907. Although he eventually earned the rank of Captain, he holds the distinction of being the first enlisted Airman. Other firsts noted in the hall include Corporal Vernon Burge, the first enlisted pilot, and Ester Blake, the first enlisted woman in the Air Force. These are merely a few examples of many firsts documented and displayed in the Enlisted Heritage Hall.

However, firsts are only a small portion of what the hall offers its visitors. There are tributes noting every significant military conflict the Air Force has been associated with, from World War I through current around the world - and the enlisted heroes who played a part in them.

Along with honoring heroes, you will discover a fascinating glimpse into the past and present of the enlisted corps including the innovative thinking and leadership in almost all career fields. It is this airmanship of this enlisted force that has firmly established the United States Air Force as the premiere military force in the world.

Along with the hall itself, the Enlisted Heritage Hall staff stands ready to provide assistance in lesson plan development assistance to professional military education institutions around the globe - as well as inquiries from the public. To help in this endeavor, they maintain one of the largest web sites in the Air Force. It offers an extensive database of Air Force enlisted facts and figures. This site can be viewed at

Vernon Burge, the first enlisted pilot

Vernon Burge, the first enlisted pilot

Military organizations around the world should ask the question, Why is the Enlisted Heritage Hall important? The answer has several answers. Through their endless pursuit of facts and figures, the staff ensures the accomplishments of America’s enlisted Airmen will never be forgotten. This serves as a motivational tool for tomorrows Airmen. By assisting Professional Military Educators with curriculum development, they play a vital part in educating current and future defenders of the United States. With over 25,000 visitors each year, the Enlisted Heritage Hall showcases enlisted accomplishments to visitors and dignitaries from around the world. Finally, the hall itself provides every visitor with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and patriotism that will stay with them forever.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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