Goodfellow AFB — 75 years

Goodfellow Air Force Base and San Angelo mark 75 years of mututal admiration and trust.

In the 75 years since Goodfellow Air Force Base was raised from a vacant plot in southeast San Angelo, the base and its host city have become more closely intertwined than possibly any military installation in the country. January marked the 75th anniversary for the 17th Training Wing as it unveiled a new logo to commemorate its diamond jubilee.

“Honestly, this is a big year for us and we wanted to do it right in every way,” Wing Commander Col. Michael L. Downs said. “As Goodfellow celebrates our Diamond anniversary, and we look back over the last 75 years, we are extremely grateful for the wonderful relationship we have with the San Angelo community."

“We are better at what we do because of San Angelo and the partnership we have,” Downs said. “Today, Goodfellow has more formal partnerships with the community than any other Air Force base.”

In 1940, a group of visionary local leaders gathered for a document signing to bring a military training facility to San Angelo. To them it may have seemed like an obvious thing to do for the benefit of the community, but few of them could have imagined they were securing the growth and stability of their city into a future only their children and grandchildren might see.

The base has evolved its mission over the decades to align itself in advance of the needs of America’s military forces, contributing to national and global security and ensuring its continued importance to the country’s ever-changing military goals. Goodfellow’s influence is visible everywhere in San Angelo. Its history and importance are enshrined on the sides of buildings, its personnel can be seen volunteering tirelessly at community events, and the voices of its leaders are significant and respected in the chambers of public policy.

The sight of military personnel in uniform having their bills paid by complete strangers at local restaurants is a daily event. The city is home to many retired service members who came back after experiencing, some only briefly, the hospitality and warmth San Angelo extends to its adopted airmen, sailors, soldiers and Marines.

The people of Goodfellow now are more closely involved in San Angelo than at any time in the base’s history, thanks in part to agreements that involve the city, the school district, local medical centers and other agencies.

“I know that we have a special bond with the community. We’re extremely grateful, honestly, to be members of San Angelo,” Downs said. “To think about what we’ve done for 75 years where we’ve trained up almost 400,000 airmen, soldiers, SEAL men and Marines for our country. It’s incredible.”

The economic impact of Goodfellow Air Force Base for San Angelo and the surrounding region exceeded $300 million in fiscal year 2015, according to Goodfellow. At any given time the base is host to 5,000 military personnel, including permanent service members, instructors and students, 900 civilian workers and about 1,000 family members at the installation. The estimated contributions of Goodfellow Air Force Base to the Texas economy in 2015 amounted to $4.345 billion, according to a survey issued this year by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The base rightly takes pride in its people. Downs took most of his annual presentation to the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce this year to highlight their outstanding accomplishments, character and strength.

One sergeant, “one of about three people in the world who can do what he does,” was a translator involved in the delicate negotiations between the U.S. military and Russia to set airspace rules over Syria. Another arranged for the mother of a dying comrade to visit her son in a cancer ward in San Antonio, flew to California to be with her after her son died, then started a fundraising project to renovate her home with the help of local military volunteers. Downs clearly views it as a privilege to command such people, and for San Angelo it is a privilege to have them among the community.

Having started with a few buildings and training for thousands of pilots who would go overseas in defense of the country, Goodfellow is now an economic, social and cultural engine beyond anything else that exists in San Angelo, and the city makes its gratitude clear. The base and the community have evolved into a mutual blessing for one another.

“The people of San Angelo have always been so generous to our members, and our Airmen love to give back through volunteer work in the community,” Downs said. “We are thankful for the continued support of San Angelo and look forward to a positive relationship for many years to come.”