Keesler heritage: Thomson Hall

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Michael E. Bullington
  • 336th Training Squadron
As you enter Thomson Hall through the building's main double doors, you will quickly notice the mural letting you know that you have entered Red Wolf Country. Thomson Hall is home to the 336th Training Squadron--the Red Wolves. In the 336th TRS, we prepare our Airmen to enter the world of cyber. However, Thomson Hall is more than just home to the Red Wolves--Thomson Hall perpetuates the memory of its namesake.

Thomson Hall is named after Capt. Archibald Besenval Thomson from New York state. Thomson joined the Enlisted Reserve Corps in December 1933 and was honorably discharged in July 1935 in the rank of sergeant in order to become a commissioned officer. As a lieutenant, Thomson was ultimately assigned to the Signal Corps Reserves -- a predecessor to our communications and cyber units of today. He was promoted to captain in March 1944. Thomson was then assigned as the commanding officer of Company B of the 568th Aircraft Warning Company. Shortly afterwards, Captain Thomson and his company were sent overseas to install aircraft control and warning equipment -- essentially, ground radar -- in support of interceptor aircraft needed during World War II. Unfortunately, the war made this assignment very dangerous. While returning from an inspection of one of these radar stations, Thomson was ambushed and killed in June 1945 in service to his country. Nearly 10 years later, Thomson Hall would be named in his honor.

It's interesting to note that the current Thomson Hall is not the first building at Keesler to bear the Thomson name. The first Thomson Hall actually stood on the same grounds on which the current Cody Hall was erected, about 50-100 yards from where Thomson Hall stands today. The original Thomson Hall was dedicated in January 1954 and officially became the new home for the radio operating department. The base commander at the time, Maj. Gen. Harlan Parks, delivered the dedication speech and cut the ribbon at the ceremony. The director of the radio operating department, Maj. Charles McInnis, conducted a tour of the new building with members of his staff. They expressed great praise of the new building as being far superior to the hangars in which classes were previously held. Furthermore, they stated the improved lighting would contribute to a better learning environment and improved morale.

In November 2001, construction began on the current Thomson Hall and was completed; June 2004. The 81st Training Wing commander, Brigadier General William Lord and the 336th Training Squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Monica Kopf, delivered dedication speeches and cut the ribbon for the new Thomson Hall in November 2004. At the time, the 336th TRS had 7 permanent party officers, 198 permanent party enlisted and 43 civilians assigned to the squadron, along with about 800 students assigned at any one time occupying two dormitories in the student Triangle area. Like today, the squadron was still organized into two academic flights along with detachments at Fort Jackson, S.C., and Fort Meade, Md.

At the entrance of Thomson Hall facing Matero Hall, there's a plaque that recognizes Thomson's legacy which notes that he spent his entire wartime experience in electronics. It is appropriate that that Air Force and Keesler perpetuated Thomson's memory by dedicating the building in his name. The closing statement on the plaque says it best: "To those of you who are the first to train students in Thomson Hall, and many who will follow, may the devotion to duty and professional integrity that marked Captain Thomson's service to his country stand as a guide to your own conduct and attainment in the field of electronics and your services to the Air Force, your country and yourself."