WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
A complete overhaul of the focus, mission and vision of the Air Force Materiel Command History Office proved a complete success as they were recently named the recipients of the Air Force History and Museums Program’s Excellence in History Program Award, Major Command level, for 2019.
“We are extremely honored to be recognized for all of our hard work this year and have transformed the AFMC history program into a key player in the AFMC operational decision-making cycle,” said Yancy Mailes, Command Historian. “AFMC is rich with heritage, and our missions are linked to the earliest days of military aviation. When our leaders need answers from the past to help make decisions today, they come to us for insights.”
While capturing and preserving today’s missions and activities for future generations is a primary aspect of the history program’s mission, the AFMC team places a strong focus on “operationalizing” and “weaponizing” the command archives for current operational needs. This has created an institutional body of knowledge that can inspire and influence leaders to make better decisions, faster, based on a greater awareness of what may have affected mission successes or failures in the past.
“History is often seen as an office attached to the organizational staff, but is difficult to see how it integrates into the mission,” said William McLaughlin, AFMC staff historian. “We’re challenging this perspective by integrating modern business practices to transform perceptions of history into a contemporary contextualization tool to serve the Air Force’s needs in a way that no other organization can.”
A new enterprise heritage archive was created this year to capture documents highlighting lessons learned, best practices and leadership successes that can be accessed to give context to everything from current events to future mission needs, said Mailes. The team also instituted a new program for cradle-to-grave weapons system document collection that ensures future Airmen have access to the full life cycle of a weapon from fielding through testing, operation, sustainment and eventually retirement. This is key as the Air Force is fielding platforms today that will operate for decades to come.
“History, archives and heritage combine to be an effective leadership tool,” said Jack Waid, Director, AFMC Heritage Programs. “This can inspire and educate. As a team, we built an effective roadmap to success.”
In addition to capturing the oral histories of more than a dozen lifelong AFMC employees this year, the history team researched and wrote a number special studies and brief historical ‘flashback’ articles that were shared across the command and on the history page of the AFMC website.
The team also plays an active role in weekly senior leader staff meetings. Through short, two-minute heritage lectures, AFMC history comes ‘alive’ for the staff and relevant lessons from the past are matched to current issues, giving historical context to current needs.
“History is a powerful tool for teaching and inspiring our Airmen. By starting each week with a focus on our connected heritage, we shape an environment for continued innovation and inspiration,” said Mailes.
According to Mailes, many of the AFMC History Program initiatives were adopted by the Air Force History Office and are now part of program-wide policies. The history office also played a large role in the recent AFMC We Need initiative, providing historical research and data to support the command-wide effort.
In addition to the headquarters award recognition, Andrew Billman, AFIMSC Historian, won the Excellence in Wartime or Contingency History Award for a special study he wrote on the center’s role in Hurricane Michael recovery efforts at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. The award recognizes the best wartime or contingency operation history report/study.
“History is full of answers, and we’re working to make sure our AFMC leaders understand their heritage and can look to the past for help as they complete missions and tasks today,” said Mailes. “I am proud of our team’s success and look forward to continuing to drive innovation and change into our history program for the future.”