Published February 22, 2018
Photo of the Wright Flyers located at Maxwell Air Force Base Airpark during a heavy rain storm.
Maxwell Air Force Base, officially known as Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, occupies the site of the first Wright brothers’ civilian flying school. It was named Maxwell Field in 1922 in honor of Second Lieutenant William C. Maxwell, a native of Atmore, Ala., who died in the Philippines in 1920 while attempting to land his DH-4 in a sugarcane field to avoid a group of children playing below.
The base is the headquarters of Air University, a major component of Air Education and Training Command. The host wing for Maxwell-Gunter is the 42nd Air Base Wing. Maxwell AFB is known throughout Montgomery and the River Region as the “Best Hometown in the Air Force.” About 7,000 military, civilians and contractors are assigned to Maxwell-Gunter.
Air University is the largest tenant unit on Maxwell AFB, comprised of about 4,000 military and civilian personnel. Known as the intellectual and leadership-development center of the U.S. Air Force, AU is responsible for Air Force enlisted and officer professional military education, professional continuing education and graduate education, as well as officer commissioning through Officer Training School and ROTC. Air University graduates more than 50,000 resident and 160,000 non-resident officers, enlisted and civilian personnel each year. Most AU programs reside at Maxwell AFB, with some across town at Maxwell's Gunter Annex, and one located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Air University operates more than 650 academic, professional military and continuing education programs, including the Air Force Institute of Technology, Air War College, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Air Command & Staff College, the eCollege, Air Force Cyber College, Community College of the Air Force, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Noncommissioned Officer Academies (CONUS), Air Force Officer Training School, Air Force Junior ROTC, and the Air Force Chaplain Corps College.
The Air Force Reserve Command's 908th Airlift Wing is a tenant unit and the only operational flying unit at Maxwell. The 908th AW and its subordinate 357th Airlift Squadron operates eight C-130H Hercules aircraft for theater airlift in support of combatant commanders worldwide. As an AFRC airlift unit, the 908th AW is operationally gained by the Air Mobility Command.
Maxwell AFB is also the site of Federal Prison Camp, Montgomery, a minimum security facility for male inmates.
Gunter Annex is a separate installation under the 42nd ABW. Originally known as Gunter Field, it later became known as Gunter Air Force Station when its runways were closed and its operational flying activity eliminated. It was later renamed Gunter Air Force Base during the 1980s. As a hedge against future Base Realignment and Closure actions, Gunter AFB was consolidated under Maxwell AFB in March 1992 to create a combined installation known as Maxwell-Gunter AFB.
Gunter Annex is home to the Air Force Program Executive Office-Business and Enterprise Systems. An Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center directorate, PEO-BES’s mission is to acquire, operate, sustain and enable enterprise IT capabilities, while accelerating the modernization of infrastructure to support the warfighter. The 26th Network Operations Squadron is also located on Gunter Annex. The 26th NOS delivers persistent defensive cyberspace operations, DoD Information Network operations and cyber security service provider support to the 24th Air Force commander.
In the early 1930s, the Army Air Corps Tactical School moved to Maxwell AFB from Langley Field, Virginia, and Montgomery became the country's intellectual center for airpower education. During WWII, the Southeast Air Corps Army Air Force Training Center, headquartered at Maxwell Field, conducted basic and advanced flight training for tens of thousands of flying cadets, including those of Allied air forces, at Maxwell Field and airfields across the Southeast United States.
Air University, an institution providing continuing military education for Army Air Forces personnel, was established at Maxwell in 1946, prior to the U.S. Air Force becoming an independent service the following year. In 1992, the 3800th Air Base Wing was disbanded and the 502nd Air Base Wing took over as the host wing, which two years later gave way to the current 42nd ABW.
As home of the Air University, Maxwell became the postgraduate academic center of the U.S. Air Force. Air University evolved first as an institution influenced by air power as shaped in World War II, then by the Cold War under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and by air power as applied during the Cold War's Korean and Vietnam conflicts. In the early 21st century, the emphasis shifted to air power's role in confronting international and transnational terrorism by both state-sponsored and non-state actors. AU grew materially from inadequate quarters, classrooms, and instructional technology into a campus that is as modern and up-to-date as those of any other in the U.S. armed forces.
(Updated as of Jan 2018)