FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. — Billie Laux, who provided decades of service and support to the Air National Guard training and education center, died Sunday, May 24, at 85.
Laux was hired in 1968 by the Director of the Air National Guard to serve as a civilian administrator at the ANG’s first NCO Academy. She was among its six initial instructors and staff, including a deputy commandant, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford, and a commandant/commander U.S. Air Force Maj. Ed Morrisey.
With the addition of NCO leadership school (the precursor to Airman leadership school), the academy soon became the Professional Military Education Center and was established as an official schoolhouse, accredited by the U.S. Air Force. The Officer Preparatory Academy followed the enlisted schools as the ANG’s first commissioning program. Laux was part of that development and success.
Thousands of students and staff got to know Billie. Many of the early class photos included Laux holding the NCO academy sign with students on the hill at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee. News outlets quoted her as saying that her time at the center was “the best job in the world.”
Laux became the last of the original staff to retire in 1995, after serving 27 years – as well as its longest-serving staff member. The Maryville Daily Times newspaper interviewed Laux at the time of her retirement. She said that she was terrified on her first day at work but was glad she had stayed. “It’s hard to say it’s been a job,” she said in the article. “It’s been a way of life.”
Laux, a Maryville resident, was on the campus in 2018, during heritage meetings to support the center’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Now called the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, it includes the largest and longest continually running EPME center in the total U.S. Air Force.