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NEWS | April 25, 2014

Preserving Air Force history

By Senior Airman Dennis Sloan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

History is made every day in the military and to make sure that history is preserved for future generations the military has historians.

In the United States Air Force, historians are assigned to specific wings and their duties consist of preserving history primarily through written documents. Most history offices also maintain a repository of photographs, videos and other multimedia capturing the history of the base and its assigned units.

"We record the events which had the greatest impact on the Air Force and more specifically on our base and the Airmen in our respective wings," said Jason Axberg, 628th Air Base Wing historian. "Every January we begin writing the history for the previous year."

"Air Force Historians differ from Public Affairs in that our primary customer or audience is Air Force leadership; squadron commanders, wing commanders, up to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force," said Stan Gohl, 437th Airlift Wing historian. "Although we do support the base population and the public our histories are not explicitly written for public release."

Traditionally an Air Force base has only one wing, so only one historian; however, since Joint Base Charleston has two wings, there are two historians.

"Even though I record history for the operational wing here and Axberg records history for the support wing our mission is the same," said Gohl.

Although assigned to different wings, Axberg and Gohl often work side by side; assisting and complimenting each other's programs. It isn't uncommon to find both historians discussing the origins of their wings and even little professional bantering seeing their offices are within shouting distance.

"We could work in completely different buildings, separate all of our historical documents up and rarely even see one another, but we work well together and sharing our history just makes it that much easier," said Axberg.

The 437th AW has a very long history dating back to 1943, with participation in World War II and virtually every conflict since which keeps Gohl busy.

"I often get calls from retirees inquiring about historical information and photos which is great because I get to talk to the people who actually made the history," said Gohl.

The 628thABW was activated the same time as the joint base in 2010, so there is limited history for Axberg to sift through. But, Axberg is also tasked with preserving the history of the original Charleston Air Force Base which goes back to 1941.

"When you create a new wing like the 628 ABW from scratch there are a lot of little details that have to be attended like squadron emblems that need to be made," said Axberg. "The work I am doing now may not be used this year or next year, but in 10 or 20 years the information will be paramount in understanding how Charleston Air Force Base was changed to Joint Base Charleston

Aside from their duties at the base, they are also both required to be deployable for contingency operations; they must maintain the same AEF requirements as an active duty Airmen. When deployed, they gather firsthand data used to fully document the contingency or conflict.

"We are one of the few civilian career fields in the military that actually requires us to be deployable and work directly in combat zones," said Gohl.

Currently, both Gohl and Axberg are collecting and writing the history for 2013; documenting the major issues and impacts of the previous year, both the good and bad.

"A lot of people think the last C-17 Globemaster III delivery was the most historical piece last year, but the government shutdown, sequestration and furloughs had the largest impact here at JB Charleston," said Axberg. "We don't avoid sensitive topics, we just write the history as it happened."