Kelly AFB History (page 5)

     Even before the end of the Cold War, America's military services saw their budgets grow smaller, and by the early 1990s, people expected to see a "peace dividend" to help reduce the budget deficit and pay for soaring costs of social services.  Continuing efforts to cut defense spending by relocating some missions and closing some bases put Kelly and the San Antonio Air Logistics Center at risk.  In May 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission added the San Antonio ALC and three other air logistics centers to its list of places to consider for closure.  While Kelly escaped the bullet in 1993, it did not do so again.  In 1995 the BRAC was determined to close one, or possibly, two of the Air Force's giant depots.  Once again, the city and the base marshaled it forces to persuade the commission that this depot was too important to close.  Despite heroic efforts, on June 22, 1995, the commission voted first to close the Sacramento ALC at McClellan AFB in California and then voted to close the San Antonio ALC and realign Kelly AFB west of the landing strip to the adjoining Lackland AFB.  The ALC would close July 31, 2001.   The center had the maximum of six years to relocate its missions and turn over a going concern to the city's redevelopment authority.  Center officials used three guiding principles in its planning: the first was continued support to maintain Air Force readiness; the second was taking care of the Kelly work force; and finally, minimizing the impact on the San Antonio Community.

     Both the city and the Air Logistics Center were determined to make this transition a success.  Kelly created the Privatization and Realignment Directorate, headed by Tommy Jordan, to handle the Air Force side of the operation.  The city created the Greater Kelly Development Corporation (later Authority) to carry out the strategies and plans to redevelop the base.  The group went right to work, signing its first lease for a portion of East Kelly to Rail Car Texas for a rail car repair facility.  Less than a month later, aircraft engine giant Pratt & Whitney signed a lease to perform upgrades on the F100 engines.  And in November 1997, Ryder International Logistics, Inc. signed a lease for However, the dream to keep all of the Center’s workload at Kelly never materialized. 

     Air Force ran public-private competitions for Kelly's workload.  The first went to another ALC. In September 1997, the Air Force announced that Warner Robins ALC won the C-5 depot maintenance contract.  Only 200 Kelly workers moved to the Georgia base, but thousands upon thousands of pounds of equipment necessary for C-5 maintenance were loaded on 18-wheelers for the trek to south Georgia.  Over the next year, as workers finished maintenance on the C-5s, Kelly's giant aircraft hangar got emptier and emptier.  On 15 September 1998, the last C-5 to undergo PDM at Kelly lifted off the runway, ending nearly eight decades of aircraft depot maintenance.

     But building 375 didn't remain empty for long.  On 20 February 1998, representatives from Boeing, GKDC, and the city of San Antonio signed letters of intent for the lease of five buildings.  Workloads at the new Boeing Aerospace Support Center included C-17s, KC-10s and KC-135s for the Air Force and MD-10s for commercial companies like Federal Express.  By May 1999, this new center had over 1,300 employees with prospects of more workload and more workers every day.

     Kelly's other large workload, the Propulsion Business Area, went on the bidding block in March 1998.  In February 1999, the Air Force announced that Oklahoma City ALC and its bidding partner Lockheed Martin had won the contract.  The news for Kelly and San Antonio was not all bad, however.  Early on, Oklahoma City ALC announced it was only interested in Kelly's F100 workload, which left in December 1999.  Work on the TF39 and T56 engines, and about 1,400 former Kelly federal workers, would stay at Kelly in building 360 under contract with Lockheed.

     The rest of Kelly's depot maintenance workload, automatic test equipment, gas turbine engines, and ICBM reentry vehicles for example, moved to the other ALCs between 1997 and 2000. The remaining three ALCs picked up Kelly's materiel management responsibilities beginning with ICBM reentry vehicle items in August 1997 and ending with secondary power systems in June 2001.  In the intervening four years, millions of pounds of equipment needed to perform Kelly's various missions left the base for their new homes across the country.

     Kelly's remaining base operating support transitioned to Lackland AFB, beginning with the 76th Medical Group in October 1999.  The final realignment of base support and Kelly's major tenant units to Lackland was completed by April 2001.  Meanwhile, the GKDA's vision of a "new Kelly" had taken off. The city-appointed authority renamed the base KellyUSA as a way to convey the nonmilitary focus of the burgeoning 2,000-acre industrial and commercial park.  By 2000, GKDA was already well on its way to its goal of replacing the  civil service jobs lost at Kelly.

     Although the flag came down on the San Antonio Air Logistics Center on July 13, 2001, it was not the end of Kelly's story. Kelly's legacy will live on for generations.  Kelly was a place where people from all backgrounds came together to roll up their sleeves and work for a united cause--our country's freedom.  For 85 years Kelly AFB made major contributions to the military strength of the United States and the prosperity of San Antonio.  Kelly was the largest single employer in San Antonio and South Texas for over 50 years, and year-after-year Kelly was the largest contributor to the Combined Federal Campaign within the city.  Kelly was a place where the workers prospered, purchased better homes, and provided family members the resources to pursue more education and more opportunities. Kelly Field provided tens of thousands of civil service jobs, and was the birth and backbone of the Hispanic middle class in the Alamo City. Generations of Hispanic families were employed at Kelly throughout its history, and, today many of the city business leaders and even congressional members have their roots as Kelly families. 

     For decades the men and women of Kelly AFB dedicated their hearts and lives to the service of their country.  From its beginnings as a farmer's cotton field in 1916, Kelly became the largest recruit and aviation training camp in the United States during World War I.  In the interwar years, Kelly served as the Alma Mata of the Air Corps while its neighbor Duncan Field provided repair and supply support for America's small air arm. 

     Following World War I, Kelly became one of the country’s largest logistical supermarkets, supporting the Air Force around the globe.  During the most recent conflicts of JUST CAUSE, DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, and Kosovo, the Kelly employees had the greatest logistical support of all the ALCS, shipping more components, more engines, and more munitions.  From the beginning of Kelly Field to the end of the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, the logistical impact and support of Kelly and its employees were vital for the United States to be successful in completing the mission. Today, Kelly transitions again, becoming KellyUSA, an industrial, commercial park for the 21st century.  But, throughout this tradition of service remains and will continue to be - Kelly Forever!


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