Air Force Engineering and Installation (EI) can reasonably trace its early history back to the beginning of the Twentieth century, 1901, when Maj Gen Adolphus W. Greely, Chief of the Army Signal Corps, sent a young lieutenant named Billy Mitchell to Alaska to string a telegraph line across the frozen territory. With Greely's support, Mitchell - employing totally different techniques from those previously used - completed the job in two years, stringing nearly 1,400 miles of cable.
The first logical Command affiliation for EI was the Army Airways Communications System.AACS was first organized on 15 November 1938, in the Directorate of Communications of the U.S. Army Air Corps. On 13 April 1943, the official lineage of the Army Airways Communications System, as a separate organization, began with the constitution of the Army Airways Communications System Wing. The Wing was activated as part of the Flight Control Command on 26 April 1943.Approximately 3 months later, the Wing was reassigned directly to the Army Air Forces.
The Air Force organized Communications Installers into five Installations and Maintenance (IM) Squadrons.These were located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Germany, Newfoundland, Alaska, and Japan. However, these five units handled only part of the Air Force's EI workload. In the continental United States, the Air Materiel Areas (AMAs) handled virtually all of the non-TRACALS EI workload using either contract or wage grade civilians to install: telephones, telecommunications centers, radios, and radars.
HQ USAF established another EI unit after 1950, with the inauguration of the Global Communications System (GLOBECOM), a global, point-to-point, air-to-ground communications network. HQ USAF, along with AACS, decided that the job was too big for IM units. Rather than augment them for this one program, in 1952, HQ USAF activated the 1872nd AACS Group, which had most of the EI responsibilities for GLOBECOM (or the Strategic Communications System, as it was later called) until 1958.
On 15 June 1958, General Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, precipitated a milestone in Air Force EI history by creating the first unified EI organization -- the Ground Electronics Engineering Installation Agency, better known as GEEIA.
GEEIA's purpose was to provide centralized management of worldwide EI resources. As a subordinate agency the Air Materiel Command (now Air Force Logistics Command) GEEIA was headquartered at Griffiss AFB, NY, where the Rome Air Materiel Area already handled such functions as scheme (now project) review, establishing engineering standards, and warehousing scheme materiel. GEEIA was divided into five geographic regions, three in the United States, one in Europe, and the other in the Pacific. Each region had its own headquarters and several subordinate installation squadrons. This EI organization carried the Air Force into the Vietnam conflict before falling victim to the budgetary axe in 1970.
In 1970, the Air Staff merged GEEIA into the Air Force Communication Service (AFCS). The idea was to allow existing AFCS personnel to assume some of the installation and high-level maintenance tasks GEEIA had performed. The resulting experiment scattered the worldwide EI resources among several AFCS areas, as subordinate commands were called. During the mid-1970s, AFCS undertook a short-lived and basically unsuccessful experiment by merging most of its EI squadrons into existing O&M units. The hybrid organizations created by this test -- so called Communications Installations Groups(CIGs) -- proved unworkable.
Consequently, in 1979, AFCS becamethe Air Force Communications Command (AFCC) andembarked on extensive reorganization plans that would not only break up the CIGs into their component EI and O&M segments, but also reestablish centralized management of the Command's EI resources. It took two years for the reorganization to become a reality.
On 1 June 1981, AFCC established the EngineeringInstallationCenter (EIC) at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, as the Air Force single manager for the worldwide Engineering and Installation mission. Consolidation of the project materials into one warehouse at Tinker was effected the next year. On 1 March 1985, the Air Force authorized changing the EIC's name to the Engineering Installation Division (EID), which better reflected its character as a major headquarters with subordinate units.
Prompted by the frenetic pace of change and innovation in the electronics industry, the EI mission underwent another major change in 1987. During that year, HQ USAF designated AFCC as one of its three acquisition organizations. Concurrently the EID became one of AFCC's two acquisition divisions, thus enlarging its customary mission to include procurement of off-the-shelf communications-electronics equipment and services and provision of life cycle support services for its customers. The EI business had entered a new age.
Further restructuring brought about the demise of AFCC.In March 1993, EI came under the reins of the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). In 1994 further changes with structure redesignated CSC to the 38EIW.
Since September 11 2001, EI has met the demandingly high OPSTEMPO and much needed Communications skill-sets that have directly supported the Global War on Terrorism: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the ‘Stans’, Afghanistan, and Iraq now have EI footprints imprinted on their soil. To meet the ever-changing USAF wartime mission, in 2005, EI aligned itself with Air Combat Command (ACC).EI is nowcomprised of 19 EI Squadrons:18 of which are Air National Guard and the remaining Active Duty EI element, the 85 EIS, Kessler AFB, MS.