The Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute (AFEHRI) was established 23 May 1997 and is currently a component of the Barnes Center for Enlisted Education. It is comprised of a Director, a Curator, a Superintendent in charge of the AFEHRI operations, and an Information Technology and Administration Technician. The AFEHRI’s mission is to support the Barnes Center for Enlisted Education mission by educating and inspiring enlisted leaders on our enlisted history, heritage, and the resulting contribution to air and space power. The AFEHRI answers monthly information requests from as high as the Secretary of Defense down to the lowest ranking Airman. The AFEHRI is responsible for editing both the Aviation History and Air Force Heritage chapters of Air Force Handbook 1, Airman that all testing-eligible Airmen study for promotion. Support is also provided to students in all facets of enlisted Professional Military Education (PME). It also provides secondary student support to the USAF First Sergeant Academy, as well as to the Officer Training School (OTS), Air Command and Staff College (ACSC), Air War College (AWC), the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), the Junior ROTC (JROTC), etc.
The institute is comprised of two elements. The research and archives element consists of a research center, archives storage, and a student computer lab. The heritage center element consists of the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall, with many student-teaching exhibits. A city and state tourist attraction, it is also serves as a military museum to civilian visitors. The AFEHRI preserves the rich and dramatic heritage and tradition of the United States Air Force and United States Space Force enlisted corps and its antecedents—Aeronautical Division, Army Air Service; Army Air Corps; and Army Air Forces. By doing so, it contributes to the development of air and space power to defend the United States. The AFEHRI achieves its mission by featuring artifacts, art collections, pictorial exhibits, written and oral documentation, audiovisuals, equipment, and selected aircraft parts. Additionally, students use the in-house and online research capabilities to enhance learning and complete enlisted heritage research projects. A significant archival holding is also available, and efforts are systematically made to ensure its growth and availability to researchers and the public.