JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Members of the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Airman Heritage Museum team were honored Oct. 2 as winners of the 2019 Air Force Heritage Award.
The Heritage Award is an Air Force-level annual award which recognizes outstanding accomplishments by Air Force History and Museum members that foster a better understanding and appreciation of the Air Force, its history, heritage and accomplishments.
The team members recognized by Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, and Gary Boyd, AETC command historian, during the presentation of the award at AETC headquarters at JBSA-Randolph were Senior Master Sgt. Sonjia Rodriguez, Tech. Sgt. Joe Williams, Staff Sgt. Ryan Stockbridge, Stephanie Ritter, William Manchester, Joseph Orr and Fernando Cortez.
Specifically honored during the presentation was Rodriguez, who built a new, interactive Medal of Honor exhibit that includes a touchscreen display which showcases the hometown, citation and photograph of 61 air component Medal of Honor recipients. Rodriguez also upgraded the museum’s Tech. Sgt. John Chapman display by syncing it with a presidential award ceremony that took place Aug. 22, 2018, during which Chapman’s Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
“It is very important to be able to educate our patrons on every level possible,” Rodriguez said. “To do this, we chose to incorporate newer technology in order to appeal to younger generations through these interactive exhibits.”
Using the Medal of Honor interactive exhibit, Rodriguez educated 600 to 950 basic military training graduates weekly on the senior enlisted leader’s role and effect on Air Force heritage. She also collaborated with the 737th Training Support Squadron to gather new reference materials and historical career field documents that were later incorporated into the squadron’s course revision.
According to Boyd, museum members currently have plans to expand the Medal of Honor interactive exhibit to include a “Ring of Honor” featuring Airmen at their best throughout Air Force history. The expansion will be used by Air Force Recruiting Service detachments and off-base museums in order to foster relationships with the local community, supporting AETC’s priority of enhancing lethality and readiness through Total Force recruiting.
“We hope these displays will anchor in a rise of innovation and interest in aeronautical and astrophysical science among local children and young adults,” Boyd said. “The Port San Antonio-Kelly innovation hub can then help serve as an outreach method to establish stronger relationships with the surrounding community and recruit future Airmen. We are also hoping to create a partnership with schools to strengthen STEM education as well — an idea we hope can be exported throughout the Air Force.”
All in all, Rodriguez says that the most important mission of the museum is “to educate and inspire visitors by telling the Air Force story, highlighting contributions made by Airman throughout our great history.”