Abilene Military Affairs Committee
MAC members come from the many businesses that are members of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. These businesses, or employees of business, pay an additional annual fee to be a part of MAC. For almost 60 years, the Abilene community and Dyess Air Force Base have formed a unique and special relationship unparalleled in the history of the Air Force. Our community proudly supports the commitment of the men and women of our military and has been recognized for its effort at all levels of command in the Air Force. Since 1956, members of the MAC have worked to ensure an active and supportive relationship between the community and Dyess Air Force Base. MAC grew out of the Chamber’s War Committee following the end of WWII and the closure of Tye Army Air Field.
Please JOIN US in demonstrating our community support for all our troops in the Armed Services, whether active duty at Dyess or serving in the local Reserves or National Guard… all stationed right here in Abilene. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all who serve us and their families. One way of showing this community patriotic spirit is your participation in MAC. It has proven to be effective in its support of our military and has been very successful in supporting the military missions in the Abilene community and the U. S. Air Force. Whatever your time commitment may be, there is a place for you to show your support.
The Military Affairs Committee (MAC) grew out of the Chamber’s War Committee following the end of WWII and the closure of Tye Air Base. The Committee diligently worked with Texas legislators in Washington, officials in the Pentagon, and Strategic Air Command to place a SAC base in Abilene, Texas. The community raised nearly a million dollars to purchase over 5,000 acres of land to give to the Air Force. Dyess Air Force Base came to fruition in the early 1950s with a stipulation that all buildings be permanent structures.
By design, there have been only seven MAC chairmen: Oliver Howard, Fred Lee Hughes, David Weeks, Frank Puckett, Celia Davis, Dr. Jim Webster and presently Gray Bridwell. We feel MAC strength lies in the stability of the chairmanship. The trust and friendships the chair develops through time and experience with national, legislative, and military leaders are invaluable.
Dyess invites the MAC to special events and activities on the base and MAC holds quarterly luncheons with mission-related briefings. The 7th Bomb Wing and the 317th Airlift Group Commanders also provide updates on their missions, challenges and future expectations. MAC members get a Dyess Identification Card for easy access on the base so they can attend MAC and Dyess events. MAC members are also eligible to become Club Members and play golf on the base course.
MAC membership has been maintained at just fewer than 300 strong with an annual $75 committee dues fee to help off-set costs for the World’s Largest Barbecue.
Since Dyess is the home of the B-1 and the schoolhouse for all B-1 crews, and the Premier C-130J unit, it receives many dignitaries and VIP guests. The MAC often hosts downtown dinners and special occasions for these visitors with Abilene’s West Texas hospitality to grow and cement our special relationship with our Dyess friends and to show our complete community support.
Over the years, MAC has envisioned and followed through with major improvements and construction that have been given to Dyess and the Air Force. Some recalled are:
- The Abilene House – the VIP quarters was provided by the MAC and then was refurnished every 10 years or so, the last time in 1995 was for approximately $25,000.
- The 96th Bomb Wing Alert Shack – called the Wright Place, named to honor one of the War Committee leaders, W. P. Wright, Sr. – was an early gift of MAC.
- The Parade Ground Viewing Stand was a personal gift in 1981 of one of the prominent, dedicated MAC members, Pete Couch – cost approximately $30,000.
- The Dyess Entrance and Guard House was a $250,000 MAC project/gift in the 1980s that included getting the state to put in a new road and then moving the entrance to Dyess. The West Texas prairie style Guard House and Gate make a beautiful natural stone entry to the base.
- The Linear Air Park was a mutual MAC/Dyess project in the early 1990s. MAC secured a $30,000 matching grant and MAC members contributed all the monuments and bronze plaque markers for the 31 aircraft in the park that lines the entrance drive from the base gate to the heart of the base. Dyess landscaped and sidewalked the linear airpark, and squadrons maintain the aircraft.
- In 1997, the MAC raised over $350,000 and Dyess matched it in kind with grounds, landscaping, sidewalks and parking for a Dyess Memorial Park and Visitor Center. The MAC gave the Memorial Park and Visitor Center to the Air Force in commemoration of the Air Force 50th Anniversary.
- The old Base Ops VIP small lounge furnishings were originally purchased by MAC for $6,000 over ten years ago. In 1999, Dyess renovated their Base Operations Building and MAC worked with them to create an outstanding spacious West Texas style VIP Lounge in the new building. The furnishings alone were $12,000 and the room was dedicated in January 2000.
- In November 2002, MAC presented Dyess with fiberglass 1/15th scale models of a C-130 and a B-1, mounted on pedestals in front of the new Dyess Visitors Center.
- In March of 2006, a full scale replica of a P-40E Warhawk flown by Lt Edwin Dyess, the base’s namesake, was donated by the MAC and is on static display at the Dyess main gate.
- Since 2006, MAC has been instrumental in getting funding for Dyess infrastructure and Quality of Life initiatives through visits to the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. MAC has assisted Dyess in getting funding for a Joint Reserve Facility, Dormitories, Child Development Center, Multi-Purpose Hanger, more improvements and additions to the Linear Air Park and a new digital projector for the Dyess Theater.
Dyess AFB History
In 1942, the United States Army Air Forces built Tye Army Air Field, as it was popularly known, on the site of what is now known as Dyess AFB. On December 18, 1942, the field was opened and was initially named Abilene Army Air Base. The name was changed on April 8, 1943 to Abilene Army Airfield. The first host unit as Abilene AAB was the 474th Base HQ and Airbase Squadron, established on December 18, 1942. The airfield was initially assigned to Second Air Force and its mission was to be a flying training center for cadets.
Known groups which trained at the base during the World War II:
- 77th Reconnaissance Group (April 6, 1943 – Sept. 12, 1943)
- 69th Tactical Reconnaissance Group (Sept. 10, 1943 – Nov. 12, 1943)
- 408th Fighter-Bomber Group (Nov. 10, 1943 – Jan. 1944)
- The 77th and 69th groups were units that trained reconnaissance personnel who later served overseas.
- The 408th was a new group which received A-24, A-26, P-40, and P-47 aircraft in October 1943 and began training. It was disbanded shortly after leaving Abilene on April 1, 1944.
On March 25, 1944, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt training for flight cadets was taken over by the 261st Army Air Force Base Unit. Training continued until April 1, 1946. With the end of the war, the base was declared inactive on January 31, 1946. Although assigned to Continental Air Command, Abilene AAF was classified as an inactive sub-base of Fort Worth Army Airfield and was sold to the city of Abilene for $1. It was used as a training facility for the Texas Army National Guard for several years.
Following the outbreak of the Korean crisis, Abilenians called for a military installation. Armed with 1,500 acres and determination, civic leaders besieged Washington, D.C., and Pentagon officials with their request for a military installation. Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt they meant business, Abilenians raised $893,000 to purchase an additional 3,500 acres to provide a home for the military base they hoped would be in Abilene.
Several prominent men were instrumental in convincing authorities of the suitability of Abilene. Oliver Howard, the late W.P. Wright Sr. and others worked in the city to promote interest in the military facility.
Together with Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and Congressman Omar Burleson, civil leaders persuaded military and civilian officials to put a military base in Abilene.
After letters and visits had been exchanged, the Department of Defense announced in July 1952 Congress had approved the $32,273,000 needed in appropriations for constructing a base in Abilene.
The local community was interested in providing for the Air Force an exemplary relationship between the community and an Air Force base. After initial groundbreaking ceremonies on Sept. 24, 1953, construction of the base progressed rapidly. The red brick ranch-style architecture boasts a Texas influence throughout the base. A unique feature of the base is all buildings are permanent structures.
Known as Abilene Air Force Base, the Strategic Air Command base was dedicated by the city fathers at the end of Abilene’s Diamond Jubilee April 15, 1956. On Dec. 6 that same year, the base was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in honor of Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess – a native of Albany, Texas, who was captured by the Japanese on Bataan in April 1942. Dyess escaped in April 1943 and fought with guerilla forces on Mindanao until evacuated by submarine in July 1943. During retraining in the United States, his P-38 Lightning caught fire in flight on December 23, 1943 near Burbank, CA. He refused to bail out over a populated area and died in the crash of his P-38 in a vacant lot.
Dyess’ first active combat unit was the 341st Bombardment Wing, which activated on September 1, 1955. The 341st was part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), flying the B-47 Stratojet, which it continued to operate until its deactivation on June 25, 1961.
The 96th Bomb Wing moved to Dyess on September 8, 1957 and for a few years worked alongside the 341st. It included not just B-47 and B-52 nuclear bombers, but also the KC-97 and later on the KC-135 refueling aircraft. During the Cold War, the base was constantly on alert in case of nuclear attack. There were even signs in the base’s movie theater that would instantly alert pilots in the scenario that the USSR would initiate a nuclear attack during a movie. These can still be seen today at the theater.
On Nov. 19 1959, the United States Army conducted groundbreaking ceremonies at Dyess AFB for the battalion headquarters of the 5th Missile Battalion, 517th Artillery of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command. Installed to defend the SAC bombers and Atlas F missile silos stationed at and around Dyess AFB, the two Nike Hercules sites were controlled by a “BIRDIE” system installed at Sweetwater Air Force Station.
Units stationed at Dyess Air Force Base while the 5/517th was operational included SAC’s 819th Strategic Aerospace Division, the 96th BW, and the 578th Strategic Missile Squadron. Several of the 578th’s Altas F Silos are located near the Nike sites. The Army Air Defense Command Post was located 37 miles west at Sweetwater AFS. Both of the sites were located near former Army posts. Camp Barkeley served as a World War II infantry division training center, while Fort Phantom Hill was a frontier outpost and stop on the Butterfield stage route.
Since 1961, various models of C-130 Hercules aircraft have been stationed at Dyess AFB. The C-130s were originally assigned to the 64th Troop Carrier Wing and from 1963 to 1972, the 516th Troop Carrier Wing was the host C-130 wing. In 1972, the 516 TCW was replaced with the 463d Tactical Airlift Wing (463 TAW). During the Vietnam War, TAC C-130 crews routinely rotated to forward based C-130 wings in the Pacific theater to support operations in Vietnam. In 1974, the 463 TAW was reassigned from Tactical Air Command TAC to Military Airlift Command as part of a USAF-wide initiative to place both strategic and tactical airlift assets under MAC control.
From 1962 to 1965 Dyess Air Force Base had 13 SM-65 Atlas Missile sites Stationed around it. The Dyess sites were operated by the 578th Strategic Missile Squadron. After being decommissioned in 1965, the Atlas missiles were removed and all sites demilitarized.
In June 1985, the 96th received its first B-1B Lancer replacing the B-52 Stratofortress and in October 1986, assumed nuclear alert status. Since achieving IOC, Dyess has been recognized as the premier bomber training center and leads the fleet in maintaining the highest mission capability status. Shortly after, the Soviet Union fell and left many wondering the fate of the base. In 1991 the 463d Tactical Airlift Wing was simply designated the 463d Airlift Wing. In October 1992, the parent commands of both wings changed. The 96 BW being reassigned to the newly established Air Combat Command, and the 463 AW being assigned to the new Air Mobility Command.
On October 1, 1993, the 96 BW and 463 AW were both deactivated and replaced by the 7th Wing, a former B-52 and KC-135 wing that had been located at the former Carswell AFB which was being realigned as NAS Fort Worth JRB/Carswell ARS as a result of Base Realignment and Closure action. The 7th Wing incorporated Dyess’ B-1Bs and C-130s, the latter which transferred from Air Mobility Command to Air Combat Command.
Within its first year, the 7th Wing’s diverse mission made it one of the most active units in the United States Air Force. The C-130s were deployed around the globe performing several airlift missions to Europe and the Persian Gulf. The crews and support people of the B-1s focused on enhancing the purpose of the Lancer in a post-Soviet 21st century.
In the 1997, Dyess’ C-130s were transferred back to Air Mobility Command, and the 317th Airlift Group was created as the parent unit for Dyess’ C-130 squadrons. At the same time, the 7th Wing was redesignated the 7th Bomb Wing. Despite this separation as units, both the 7th Bomb Wing and the 317th Airlift Group remained at Dyess.
One of the many unique features of Dyess is its extensive collection of static military aircraft on display. Collectively known as the “Linear Air Park,” it contains 30 aircraft from World War II to the present, many of them formerly based at Dyess, and is located along the base’s main road, Arnold Blvd. All but one plane has been flown before. Its most recent addition is the first operational B-1B Lancer, known as “The Star of Abilene,” which made its final flight in 2003. It can be seen at the front gate to Dyess along with a recently retired C-130 Hercules located on the other side of the road (a tribute to the two main aircraft currently housed at Dyess).
Another unique feature of Dyess is its main source of energy. In January 2003, Dyess became the first Department of Defense installation in the United States to be powered exclusively from renewable wind energy. Today, most of the energy Dyess receives is from other sources of renewable energy, such as biomass, and is considered one of the “greenest” bases in the U.S. Air Force.
The remnants of Tye AAF can still be seen today. Parts of the old runway still exist as well as part of its parking area on the west side of Dyess.
Global War on Terrorism
The 7th Bomb Wing and 317th Airlift Group were called to duty once again shortly after September 11, 2001. Both played vital roles in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Many of the 7th BW’s B-1s and support personnel continue to deploy to Southwest Asia. From there, the 7 BW provides close air support to troops in the field and precision strike missions with the B-1B Lancer. The 317th Airlift Group was deployed continuously to Southwest Asia from December 2003 to April 2013, totaling 3,378 continuous days deployed, during which the group provided airlift support to OIF, OEF and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa operations. As of July 2013, the 317th AG completed their multi-year transition from the C-130 H-model to the modernized J-model. Currently, the 317 AG boasts the largest J-model fleet across the globe with a total of 28 aircraft.
World's Largest BBQ
Every year since 1965, the Military Affairs Committee of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce has planned, prepared, and served a free all-you-can-eat barbecue for Dyess AFB members and their families. The meal is the Committee’s way of expressing Abilene’s appreciation to all Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and DoD Civilian personnel for being part of the Abilene community and for what they do for our country. The barbecue is no small undertaking, to be sure. It takes over 200 volunteers several days to prepare over 3,300 pounds of beef, 600 pounds of sausage, 1,000 pounds of cole slaw, 300 gallons of ranch-style beans, and 500 gallons of iced tea, among other favorites. While it is not open to the general public, approximately 5,000 military members and civilian employees and their families attend to enjoy the feast every year.
The Military Affairs Committee also takes the time to honor the Dyess Military Family of the Year at a ceremony during one of the seatings, to recognize families who contributed to the community through volunteer service and community involvement. The barbeque was originally held outdoors on the Dyess AFB Picnic Grounds, but after several years of battling the weather, it was moved into a hangar on base. It has been hosted at the Abilene Civic Center since the 1970s, with the exception of the 50th Anniversary in 2015, when it once again took place in a hangar during the Dyess Airshow.
“The World’s Largest Barbeque is just one of the many ways Abilene supports the Airmen and their families,” said one military veteran. “I have been stationed all over the world, and the support we get from Abilene is hands-down the best I have experienced in my career.”
The Abilene Trophy
In conjunction with the Air Mobility Command (AMC), the MAC administers the annual competition for the “Abilene Trophy” among all communities that support a local AMC base. Early in the calendar year, communities submit their nomination packages to the MAC. A selection committee chooses their top three selections and sends the packages to the Commander of AMC who makes the final decision and announces the winner at the AMC Spring Rally usually held in April. MAC representatives then fly to the winning community to formally present the trophy.
The traveling trophy is a beautiful bronze sculpture of an American Bald Eagle in flight, which was created by a local artist. A miniature bronze sculpture of the eagle is given to each winning community at the end of their winning year when the next winning community is announced and the large traveling trophy moves to the new winner.
Prior to 1999, Abilene won the Strategic Air Command and Air Combat Command Community Support Award so often they subsequently retired the awards. In January 1999, the Air Mobility Command and the Abilene MAC co-created the AMC Community Support Award, which is now known as the “Abilene Trophy.”