JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
History helps us understand change and how the society we live in came to be. The United States Air Force preserves its heritage and legacy for future generations by documenting missions, exercises, and other events.
Josh Mayes, 628th Air Base Wing historian is in charge of documenting and managing historical events, programs and functions at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. Before he became a historian he served in the Air Force.
“I was active duty Air Force for about 10 years in air transportation,” said Mayes. “I got my bachelor's and master’s in history, and wanted to do something in history.”
While working at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas Mayes found out about the historian position.
“Becoming a historian has always been something that I wanted to do since I was probably about 10 years old when I first read JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit,” said Mayes. “I loved the historical aspect of the characters and I loved learning about people that came before, and the idea that we are products of those people.”
During his time in Turkey, Mayes enjoyed studying the Crusades between the 11th and 14th centuries; he said it was one of his favorite time periods.
“The Crusades time period was extremely complex, and it's very understudied compared to other time periods in history like [the] American Revolution, or American history in general,” Mayes explained. “It provides a lot of things that connect. During this time period there was a mix of social classes, and a mix of different cultures that came together in one place.”
In addition to communicating with historical organizations around Charleston, Mayes also enjoys interviewing veterans.
“World War II veterans are dying at a rate of about 500 a day,” he said. “Most of these men and women when they served in World War II were at the youngest 17 years old so most of those folks are probably in their mid-90s, if they're still alive. To be able to touch historically, that generation that happened 75 to 76 years ago, is a connection that I think we get when we combine both humanity and history.”
Mayes said he’s always felt like history is extremely dynamic and has a profound impact on the future.
“It's constantly changing and constantly being rewritten,” he said. “I think it’s important for people, the citizens of the world, to understand some basic knowledge of the past in order to better understand and also to approach the future.”