Distinguished service since ‘72
By Randy Martin and Lane Bourgeois, 12th Flying Training Wing
/ Published February 27, 2017
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
The history of the 12th Flying Training Wing stretches back to World War II and has been part of Air Education and Training Command since it was activated as part of Air Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas on May 1, 1972.
Although the wing celebrates the lineage of its predecessor unit, the 12th Bombardment Group, the wing’s history began with its establishment on Oct. 27, 1950. It has been identified by several different names since then including the 12th Fighter-Escort Wing, 12th Strategic Fighter Wing and 12th Fighter-Day Wing in the 1950s; and the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing in the 1960s. Throughout this time the wing amassed an impressive array of honors.
With its re-designation in March 1972, the 12th FTW began training pilots to be instructor pilots. To accomplish this mission, the wing flew T 37 Tweets and T 38 Talons. At the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, ATC temporarily expanded the wing’s mission to include T-37, T 38, and T-39 pilot requalification training for over 150 Air Force pilots who had been prisoners of war.
From 1976 until December 1992, the wing’s sole mission was pilot instructor training but a new mission was on the horizon.
On Dec. 15, 1992, with the pending closure of Mather Air Force Base, California, ATC opened the door to a new era of training for the 12th FTW by activating the first of three navigator training squadrons.
As the Air Force made a transition to specialized undergraduate pilot training, ATC activated the wing’s T-1A Jayhawk unit on May 14, 1993, to prepare student pilots for assignments in airlift and tanker aircraft.
In October, 1993, the 12th FTW gained responsibility for conducting introduction to fighter fundamentals training. IFF was, and still is a training program where new fighter pilots learn tactics in a familiar aircraft like the T-38 before continuing training in a more complex, contemporary fighter.
In 1994, Randolph’s military aircraft maintenance operation was converted to an in-house, all-civilian operation. Eventually that force would grow to support flying operations in both Florida and Texas and in 2017 it became the wing’s fourth group.
Reflecting an evolution in airpower, the wing began unmanned aircraft system fundamentals training at Randolph in November, 2008. Success overseas led to greater demand for operators of all types and the term remotely piloted aircraft replaced the term “UAS.” More than 2,000 RPA pilots and sensor operators have completed training here.
As part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, the 479th Flying Training Group stood up at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, with its three squadrons to conduct combat systems officer training. The group activated a fourth squadron in 2016.
By 2010 the 12th FTW’s responsibility as Randolph’s host wing changed with a BRAC directed re-designation to Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph with one host wing for San Antonio’s major military installations. After 38 years as Randolph’s host wing, the 12th FTW became a tenant unit of JBSA.
The wing’s mission grew again in 2012 when it gained a second major geographically separated unit and took responsibility for the parachute, powered flight, and glider airmanship training programs at the United States Air Force Academy’s 306th Flying Training Group. The wing also assumed oversite of contractor operated initial flight training at the 1st Flying Training Squadron, Pueblo, Colorado.
Through the years the wing has celebrated historic firsts and innovation. For example, in 2016 enlisted pilots soloed at IFT before continuing on to JBSA-Randolph where they train as RPA pilots for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The wing also pursues efficient resource utilization and stewardship through the vigorous application of continuous process improvements.
Today the 12th FTW conducts the combat systems officer training program at Naval Air Station Pensacola. The wing also conducts remotely piloted aircraft training, introduction to fighter fundamentals, and pilot instructor training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. It continues to serve as a leading mission partner in JBSA, Pensacola, Florida and Colorado Springs, Colorado with the community on initiatives that support compatible development and Air Force readiness.
Just as it had in the 1950s and 1960s, the 12th FTW has distinguished itself since 1972 as the source of America’s airpower in AETC.
*Editor’s note-this article is part of a series focused on the roles AETC’s wings have played in the command’s first 75 years.