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NEWS | July 26, 2016

Past teaches future

By Stan Gohl, historian JB Charleston

History is one of the most dynamic of the social science disciplines. I often view history symbolically as a river running through the passage of time.  It seemingly carries notable events and people as long as they are remembered by others.  All the while, the creation of structures such as the Pyramids at Giza, the Roman Coliseum and the Renaissance architecture of northern Italy have witnessed the passing centuries.  History documents change over time as new ideas and discoveries come to light similar to how the rivers around the city of Charleston have changed their courses over time.

As a professional Air Force Historian it goes without saying history is my life.  I am dedicated to the memory and heritage that is the Air Force.    I am like a giddy school boy when pouring over black and white photos of men and women doing the same jobs you do except they're wearing an older version of the uniform and existing in a different time.  I recently received a phone call from a gentleman who had received a stack of "some type of records" from his grandfather who served with the 8th Army during World War II.  The man planned to dump the records in the trash if I did not want them.  After doing research, I found that these were no ordinary records. They had come from the War Department to help boost morale overseas by delivering radio shows, news and popular American music during the war.  "How can I not love my job?" I thought, as the dusty and dirty scent of time rose to greet me when I lifted the original lid container to access the records.

History also contains lessons.  Many military commanders over time have learned from those before them.  Julius Caesar had a book of Alexander the Greats' exploits, Napoleon Bonaparte read all of the previous great military commanders.  If Adolph Hitler had read Napoleons' defeat by charging into Russia in 1812, Hitler might have changed his mind about repeating the event in 1941.  Lesson learned.

As the 628 Air Base Wing Historian my job is to document the history of our wing so that the "Evaluation of past experience is of great value to planners and decision-makers in determining current policies and preparing for current and future contingencies."  Also that the "knowledge of history is a significant factor in determining the success or failure of a particular policy, plan or operation."  The history that you make by completing the mission of the 628th Air Base Wing will be used and remembered by the future leaders of the U.S. Air Force.