Though the mission has changed several times, Sheppard has always been in the training business since it was officially opened as an active Army Air Corps base in October 1941.
Sheppard Field was conceived on Nov. 29, 1940, when Maj. Gen. Rush B. Lincoln, commandant of U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Schools, surveyed sites around the city of Wichita Falls for a proposed training school.
J.S. Bridwell, a Wichita Falls cattleman, offered 300 acres just south of Kell Field to the government for $10. The Army Air Corps officially approved the school plans in February 1941.
Thus Sheppard Field began as a World War II Army Air Corps training center when representatives of the War Department and the city of Wichita Falls entered into a lease agreement. The lease gave the government the right to build and operate a military installation adjacent to the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport and granted the government the right to the full use of the airport’s land, runways and facilities.
Official dedication of the field was Oct. 17, 1941, following the arrival of the first military members June 14. The field was named for the late Sen. Morris E. Sheppard, former chairman of the Senate Military Affairs Committee. Facilities were completed sufficiently to allow the first class of 219 aviation mechanics to enter training that October; the class graduated Feb. 24, 1942.
During World War II, Sheppard conducted basic training and technical training for B-25 and B-26 crew chiefs, glider mechanics and B-29 flight engineers. The base also provided liaison aircraft flight training for ground officers and glider pilot and helicopter pilot training.
The field reached its peak strength of 46,340 people while serving as a separation center for troops being discharged following World War II from September through November 1945.
Sheppard Field was inactivated Aug. 31, 1946, and declared surplus to the War Department’s needs; it was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers April 30, 1947.
Control and accountability for Sheppard Field was transferred to the Department of the Air Force Aug. 1, 1948. It was reactivated Aug. 15, 1948, to supplement Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as a basic training center and was renamed Sheppard.
Basic training was discontinued in June 1949, but was resumed from July 1950 to May 1952 during the Air Force’s buildup for the Korean War. The aircraft mechanics school was transferred to Sheppard from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, in April 1949, to make room for expansion of electronic training at that base. The school was renamed the Department of Aircraft Maintenance Training within the 3750th Technical School.
Comptroller, transportation and intelligence training moved to Sheppard from Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, in fall 1954. Communications, refrigeration, air conditioning, and power production operator and repairman training were transferred here from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, in 1959. Intelligence training returned to Lowry in February 1962. Training in certain missile systems began at Sheppard in 1959 and was conducted here through September 1985.
The 3750th Technical Training Wing was designated the Sheppard Technical Training Center Jan. 1, 1959.
Field training became an important part of Sheppard’s mission in 1959, when management of
53 field training detachments was assigned to Sheppard. Additional detachments were added in 1966, and in 1971, Sheppard assumed responsibility for all field training detachments under supervision of the Department of Field Training. The department was designated the 3785th Field Training Wing in July 1984.
A Strategic Air Command operational wing of B-52 bombers and KC-135 tanker aircraft was at Sheppard from 1960 to 1965. In July 1969, Detachment 1, 2nd Bombardment Wing, with four B-52 aircraft, became a tenant organization and remained here until 1975.
The U.S. Air Force Medical Service School began its move to Sheppard from Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama, in March 1966. On June 10, 1971, the name changed to the School of Health Care Sciences, and April 15, 1988, it was designated the 3790th Medical Service Training Wing. Its six teaching squadrons provide training for most Air Force medical service members in biomedical sciences, dentistry, health service administration, clinical sciences, medical readiness and nursing. Until 1991, this training included an orientation course for newly commissioned medical service officers. The Military Indoctrination for Medical Service Officers course was moved to Lackland in 1991. Helicopter pilot training was transferred from Stead Air Force Base, Nevada, in October 1965. It included firefighting training in addition to undergraduate helicopter pilot training. H-19, H-43 and CH-3C helicopters were used for training. The 3630th Flying Training Wing was activated in 1965, and it assumed the helicopter training program. It also began providing undergraduate pilot training in the T-37 and T-38 for the German Air Force in August 1966. Helicopter training was discontinued in 1971 when the U.S. Army assumed responsibility for training Air Force helicopter pilots.
The 3630th Flying Training Wing also provided undergraduate pilot training for pilots of the Republic of Vietnam air force from 1971 to 1975. The 80th Flying Training Wing replaced the 3630th Flying Training Wing in 1973. The 80th Flying Training Wing began conducting the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program in 1981. This one-of-a-kind program provides fighter-oriented pilot training for 13 NATO countries. They are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The program has been approved through 2016.
In February 1992, restructuring and downsizing of the Air Force caused realignment and renumbering of units at Sheppard. The training wings were re-designated as groups, and the technical training groups became squadrons.
Today, Sheppard is the largest of four technical training wings in the Air Education and Training Command and is the most diversified. Three organizations; the 80th Flying Training Wing, the 82nd Training Group and the 782nd Training Group (inactivated in September 2011 after all medical training moved to Fort Sam Houston), conduct resident training that qualifies students in a broad range of career fields, including pilot, aircraft maintenance, civil engineering, communications, comptroller and transportation. The 982nd Training Group provides instruction in a wide range of specialties at more than 46 Air Force installations worldwide. The 82nd Mission Support Group and the 82nd Medical Group support these organizations.