JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Preserving history is important to those who lived it as well as those who follow in their footsteps, and the 25th Air Force History Office was recently recognized by the Air Force for their extraordinary efforts in documenting the past.
“We aim to make history operationally relevant,” said Gabriel Marshall, 25th Air Force Historian. “Highlighting and learning from the past illuminates the future.”
Every year, the U.S. Air Force History and Museums Program honors its field historians with various awards for excellence in periodic history and heritage programs.
The team of historians at the 25th were selected for two honors -- the 2017 Dennis F. Casey Award for Excellence in Periodic History, Numbered Air Force or Center category, and an Air Force Heritage Award. The Heritage Award recognizes the achievements of program personnel and their efforts to foster a better understanding of and appreciation for the Air Force, its history and accomplishments.
"I have an incredible team,” said Harold Myers, director of History and Research at 25th Air Force. “This team includes a great deal of experience in Air Force Intelligence and has a superb interest in telling the nearly 70-year-old 25th Air Force story.”
During 2017, History Office staff members gave more than 50 tours of the Casey Heritage Center, a public museum located at the NAF headquarters. Casey was the chief historian of the Air Intelligence Agency from 1995 to 2007, the predecessor name of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, which is now 25th Air Force.
“Our Heritage Center tours give historians Gabriel Marshall and BJ Jones the opportunity to shine in presentations to military and civilian visitors to the center and to the public in general,” Myers said. “They put on a great, entertaining show.”
“We work very hard to present interesting and relevant history products to the organization's personnel and special visitors,” said Jones. “The addition of the Japanese Purple Analog encryption/decryption device to our Heritage Center last year made our unique collection of machines even more exceptional, as it is the only location where visitors can see the German Enigma, American Sigaba, Soviet Fialka and Purple Analog together in one room.”
Army crypt-analysts built the American-made Purple, known to code-breakers simply as “Purple,” to decode Japanese diplomatic messages during World War II. The machine on display is one of three components that was used to decrypt messages sent between Japan and its embassies around the world, Jones said.
An additional exhibit, located in Building 2007 at the headquarters, honors the Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards and includes representative artifacts and photos of award winners.
The Larson Awards began in 1980 as the Comfy Olympics, and was created to officially recognize the sacrifice and dedication of enlisted Airmen in the Electronic Security Command’s core intelligence career fields. The Comfy Olympics grew from competitors in five career fields to more than a dozen specialties. With this expansion, the program name evolved into Prism Olympics in 1992, Sensor Olympics in 1994, and was finally named Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson Awards, after its founder, in 2009. The current competition has 20 career field categories.
Another project the History Office has taken on is modernizing and identifying the contents of its 1,600-linear feet of Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information archive. Their efforts have uncovered and digitized nearly 900,000 photos of enterprise activities from 1948 through 2017. Many of the photos have been declassified and are in the latest edition of the office’s annual journal. There are plans to complete three of these unit-level journals.
It was the total team effort that earned the 2017 Air Force level awards for the office.
During 2017, the NAF historians responded to more than 650 external inquiries, which consumed in excess of 340 hours in labor for response, and an additional 600 internal inquiries that historian John Williamson answered. His research and responses provided input to key NAF policies, Myers said.
While the program’s accolades were well received, each of the documentarians was reluctant to take credit for the achievement.
“I'm just a lesser part of an extremely talented team of competitive and hard-driving historians,” Marshall said. “We always strive to do the best we can to support the best ISR professionals the world has ever seen – 25th Air Force and its units around the globe.”
Note: All 25th Air Force History Office publications are available for download on the 25th Air Force website: http://www.25af.af.mil/About-Us/History/, and a limited number of printed copies are available in the Heritage Center.