Why History and Heritage Matters

  • Published
  • By Mr. Christopher J. McCune
  • 460th Space Wing Historian
During my high school years, our football team had a sign above the locker room door that we’d touch prior to going out on the field.

The sign exhorted us to “Add To Tradition,” listing all the state championships and playoff appearances that prior teams at the school had achieved. Touching the sign was our acknowledgement of what they had accomplished, and our responsibility as team members to sustain that legacy of excellence every time we stepped out onto the field.

In many ways, how we treat our own history and heritage as members of the Air Force carries with it a similar duty. An understanding and appreciation of history, whether it be that of our nation, our Air Force and other armed services, or our local communities, instills a sense of obligation toward those who came before us and offers answers to the questions that arise from the daily challenges associated with executing our mission.

That means examining our past in the most objective way possible--documenting our accomplishments, but also acknowledging when and where we may have fallen short of our ideals or goals. This empowers Airmen, regardless of rank or status, to enact appropriate changes and improvements where necessary, so that in the coming years a repository of learning and experience can serve as a guide for those who follow us.

Our forebears at Buckley Air Force Base certainly understood this obligation. During World War II, the base, then known as Buckley Field, housed a history office devoted to archiving the many activities taking place, from armorer and arctic survival training to medical care and flightline operations.

As a training installation, the histories and special studies produced by these dedicated individuals proved to be a valuable source of lessons and information for similar training bases being established across the country during the war, and continue to shed light on contemporary issues even today.

Heritage complements history just as history complements heritage.

Organizations such as the 140th Heritage Group are critical to preserving the material culture of Buckley’s history. This group preserves the records and artifacts of the 140th Wing during its time at Buckley at the Wings Over the Rockies museum, located at the former Lowry Air Force Base site. Their devotion to the 140 Wing’s past ensures that future generations of Guardsmen and women remain connected to those who came before them.

Heritage displays in the headquarters of the Air Reserve Personnel Center and 460th Space Wing, as well as the lobby of the Mission Control Station, do the same for our active duty, Air Reserve, space operator and installation support personnel, as well as our mission partners. They provide visible, tangible links to the past, enhancing our appreciation for what came before us and the evolution of the Buckley community through the years.

Today at Buckley AFB, history offices at the 460 SW and ARPC carry on the tradition established by the dedicated historians at Buckley Field, providing organization leaders with timely, comprehensive manuscripts that document the significant events and issues being tackled by their Airmen, civilians, and contractors to accomplish their respective missions.

In doing so, we fulfill our duty of documenting the decades-long record of achievement and struggle that continues to be built upon today. By probing and understanding the past, we are better able to grasp the forces which shape our present, while enabling us to direct our future.