History: A tribute to our heroes, their ability to adapt

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- What comes to mind when you hear the word, "history?"

Do you reflect back to your high school or college days or to old movies that you may have watched depicting events or people you have never heard of, nor were interested in learning about?

I assume the majority of you when you first saw this title thought to yourself, "Here is another history lesson." I'm not about to disappoint you; this is going to be a lesson in history but in a different sort of way.

From the time we entered the Air Force until we separate or retire we are confronted with situations that force us to adapt: whether we adapt to the situation or we adapt the situation to meet our needs. The bottom line is if we do not adapt the mission may suffer or possibly fail.

There are countless examples of adaptability throughout history: Carl Ben Eielson and Hubert Wilkins were confronted with a dilemma after two attempts trying to fly across the North Pole. However, they did not give up. They looked at the challenge, evaluated their possibilities, and made a few changes.

Their biggest change involved selecting the right aircraft. The two previous aircraft they had tried were not viable options. One was destroyed and the other was too large and would require too much fuel for the journey.

After much searching they found the perfect plane, a Lockheed Vega. According to Wilkins, "This is the plane Ben and I need to fly to Spitsbergen." The rest is history.

Another example is the Doolittle Raiders when they used B-25s, an aircraft originally designed to take off from land, to take off from a carrier deck, and attack the mainland of Japan. Once again, the rest is history.

Most recently and closer to home, the Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005 has forced Eielson to adapt over the last two years. In 2006, Cope Thunder was renamed Red Flag-Alaska. In 2007, the A-10s left and the 355th Fighter Squadron was inactivated. Soon our flight line will be void of operational F-16s.

In will come the aggressors. As a result, the Air Force recently redesignated the 18th Fighter Squadron as the 18th Aggressor Squadron. In other words, Eielson is adapting its mission to better fit the overall mission of the Air Force.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not endure." Yes, we need to take the time to honor our heroes but we also need to honor the ability they had to adapt to seemingly overwhelming circumstances in order to accomplish their mission.