Wing historian preserves Eielson's perishable memory

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Yash Rojas
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The preservation of evidence and artifacts is the daily labor of a wing historian, filing away articles, countless emails and faded photographs, all in an effort to help leaders face new challenges, armed with the most current information provided in the pages of history.

In this way, a wing historian serves through ensuring the history of the base is properly chronicled.

Dan Williams, 354th Fighter Wing historian, has served at Eielson Air Force Base for more than three years, gathering and documenting everything from old photographs to power point presentations in an effort to preserve an accurate snapshot of the Iceman Team accomplishing its mission.

"The position serves as the corporate memory for the Wing," said Williams. "We're responsible for capturing whatever goes on here because all that [information] is very perishable."

One way of accomplishing this is to create an annual history, which is a primary responsibility of a wing historian. Much of the information is pulled from briefings and submissions, as well as being collected from the weekly wing meeting scheduled each Wednesday.

Staff members who attend each week populate slides with information the base commander needs to know. The information presented is disseminated as timely and effectively as possible.

"On Thursday, nobody really cares much for [the weekly slides] anymore, however I do," said Williams. "I'll grab all that material and preserve that. All that [material] gets rolled up into an annual history which has everything [the wing] participated in and everything we've been doing for the entire year."

Williams said a lot of the information on those slides is relevant and covers what the base is currently engaged in. More importantly, it provides a historical snapshot that can be called upon when needed.

"If the wing commander says, 'I got a question on how we handled something in the past,' I can go dig into the history and into the archive to see how we [did it]," he said. "We'll get requests from [other] commanders, military members and federal agencies."

In addition to addressing the informational needs of the internal audience or even the public at large, a wing historian acts as a central hub for various historical events that make up the past, present and future of the wing.

For example, when speaking upon the creation of the Eielson City Center, Williams said the inspiration came from Amber Hall. While the building now serves as headquarters to the 354th Fighter Wing, it once contained quality of life facilities such as a dining hall, bowling alley and dormitories.

This ability to look back, gather important information and make well-informed decisions that positively impact the future of the base becomes a useful tool.

"There are opportunities to make informed decisions that are happening in real-time," added Williams.

Nearly all wing historians across the Air Force also serve in deployable positions, said Williams. It is part of the job and a condition of employment.

Williams recently came back from Kabul, Afghanistan, where he chronicled the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing and their training of the Afghan National Army Air Corps. Coalition forces and partners trained the Afghan National Army Air Corps how to be a professional, modern Air Force.

"Our folks are training Afghan military members, so historians go in for a deployment period to write that history" he said. "We sit in [deployment] buckets just like everybody else does; go to combat airmen skills training as a civilian and wear the uniform."

From home station to serving in deployed environments, a wing historian contributes to the mission in a big way, providing critical information useful today or tomorrow.