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JBSA-Lackland training annex dedicated to fallen Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Jasmine Manning
  • Special Warfare Training Wing Public Affairs

With family, friends and fellow Airmen in attendance, the Chapman Training Annex was officially renamed during a ceremony here March 4, 2020.

Previously known as the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Training Annex, it was renamed in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. John A. Chapman, an Air Force combat controller who gave his life fighting in Afghanistan in 2002.

“Today we honor the tremendous courage, the selflessness and the patriotism of Master Sgt. John Chapman,” said Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, who was the keynote speaker during the ceremony. “Chapman was a great warrior, a steadfast friend, a selfless patriot, and above all, a man of unquestionable character. For John, it was always about those on his left, and those on his right – it was about others.”

While conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002, Chapman’s helicopter was attacked by enemy fighters with heavy machine-guns. The attack caused a team member to fall from the aircraft. After egressing the area in the damaged helicopter, Chapman and his team volunteered to return in a second helicopter in an effort to save their teammate. Once on the ground, Chapman stormed an enemy bunker, cleared the position and moved from cover to engage another enemy machine gun emplacement.

During this second assault, Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight against multiple enemy personnel until his death.

“While there are a number of extremely high awards presented in the aftermath of this battle, the story of John Chapman’s gallantry simply stands above them all,” said Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command. “If we ever needed an example of Air Force core values in action, John Chapman is it.”

In August 2018, Chapman was posthumously presented the nation’s highest award for valor and heroism. He is the fourth Air Force enlisted Airman to earn the Medal of Honor.

“Renaming this annex is extremely fitting and speaks volumes about John as an operator and how he lived and died,” said Valerie Nessel, Chapman’s wife. “Each trainee will know John and learn about his actions. The operator has to want with every fiber of their being to become an operator. When doubts enter, one must remember John on that mountaintop.”

The Special Warfare Training Wing conducts initial entry training courses at the annex for Airmen pursuing combat control, pararescue, special reconnaissance and tactical air control party specialties.

“These gates through which Sgt. Chapman walked 30 years ago will now bear his name,” said Wilson. “The brave men and women who follow in his footsteps and commit themselves to live by the ethos ‘first there, that others may live’ shall forever be reminded of John’s uncompromising service to this nation and of his unbreakable commitment to his brothers and sisters in arms.”

Chapman entered the combat controller training pipeline at Lackland Air Force Base in 1989. 

“When I think of John, I think of a Special Warfare continuum,” Webb said. “On that day, Chapman represented the best of who we, Airmen, aspire to be. He represents the ideals of Special Warfare. He represents a continuum of the excellence that has gone before, the excellence of today and the excellence that is still to come.”

Chapman Training Annex is the only other Air Force location named after an enlisted member. Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, is named after Cpl. Frank Scott, the first enlisted member to lose his life in an aircraft in 1912.

To see the livestream and events from the ceremony, please see the video below: