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COLONEL ROY C. KIRTLAND

This week in history - March 5, 1913: 1st Aero Squadron (Provisional) activated

In February 1913, President William Howard Taft ordered the U.S. Army 2nd Division, with encampments in Texas City and Galveston, Texas, to mobilize as a defense against increasing tensions with Mexico. On Feb. 25, 1913, the Army’s chief signal officer, Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, ordered the airplanes, soldiers and equipment then at the aviation training school at Augusta, Georgia, to Texas City. On March 5, the Army designated the small command the 1st Aero Squadron (Provisional). The unit consisted of nine airplanes, nine officers and 51 enlisted men. One of the officers was 1st. Lt. Roy C. Kirtland, (whose name would be given to the former Albuquerque Army Air Base in 1942), who commanded the 1st Aero Squadron from June to November 1913. In December, the 1st Aero Squadron dropped “Provisional” from its title to become the Army’s first regular air squadron.

Colonel Roy C. Kirtland

Kirtland Air Force Base is named after Colonel Roy Carrington Kirtland, the third oldest military pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the time of his death in 1941. He played a prominent role in the early Air Corps aviation.

Born at Fort Benton, Montana, on May 14, 1874, Kirtland enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1898, eventually earning a commission as a second lieutenant of Infantry on August 29, 1901. In March 1911, Roy Kirtland was transferred from the Infantry Division to the Air Service and placed in charge of the U.S. Aviation School at College Park, Maryland.

While learning to fly one of the early Wright airplanes, he was asked to recommend other young officers for flight training. He recommended Lieutenant Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, who later became Chief of the Army Air Corps.

Colonel Kirtland is one of the early Army pilots, receiving in 1911 Certificate No. 46 from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. He also holds Expert Aviatior License No. 11 from the Aero Club of America. From April to June, 1911, he was in charge of the U.S. Aviation School at College Park, Md.

Roy Kirtland went on to command the First Aero Squadron in 1913 and served in various Signal Corps aviation school capacities until his return to the Infantry Division in 1915. After rejoining the Signal Corps Aviation Section in 1917, he was assigned the task of organizing motor mechanic regiments, and then assumed command of the Third Regiment in France. While overseas, he served as inspector of aviation in England and Air Service rest camps.

After World War I, Colonel Kirtland became a flight instructor, commanded aviation supply depots, and later graduated from the U.S. Army War College. During the late 1920s, he served with the General Staff until his appointment in 1930, as Commandant of Langley Field, Virginia, and as acting Commandant of the Air Corps Tactical School. Colonel Roy C. Kirtland retired from the military in 1938 after 40 years of dedicated service.

However, three years later at the age 65, he returned to active duty at the West Coast Army Air Forces Training Center, Moffett Field, California. On May 2, 1941, he died there from a massive heart attack. On February 25, 1942, at the special request of General 'Hap' Arnold, Albuquerque Army Air Base was renamed Kirtland Army Air Field in honor of his lifelong friend, Roy C. Kirtland.

On January 13, 1948, Kirtland Army Air Field became Kirtland Air Force Base. Later, on July 1, 1971, Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia Base, and Manzano Base merged to become the third largest base in Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) and the sixth largest in the Air Force. The base occupies over 52,000 acres and employs more than 20,000 people.

Point of Contact
377 ABW/HO, 2000 Wyoming Blvd SE Ste D-2, Kirtland AFB, NM 87117-5606; Commercial: 505-853-0011, DSN: 263