Air Force historian visits, tours Kirtland

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara
  • Headquarters Air Force Operational test and Evaluation Center Chief of Public Affairs
Mr. Dick Anderegg, Air Force Director of History and Museums Policies and Programs, visited Kirtland AFB Aug. 21 and 22.

Mr. Anderegg, a member of the Senior Executive Service, provides policy and guidance to four key components of the Air Force history program: the Air Force Historical Research Agency; the Air Force museum system; the Historical Studies Office; and the worldwide history program. He also serves as the historical adviser to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff.

Prior to assuming his current position, he was an air and space power strategist in Project Checkmate during the planning and execution of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He also served as an active-duty Air Force officer for 30 years, retiring as a colonel in 1997.

During the first day of his visit to Kirtland, Mr. Anderegg visited the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and met with the AFOTEC Commander, Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Sargeant. He also gave a presentation to AFOTEC members that included information from his book Sierra Hotel, a history of the cultural changes that occurred in the U.S. Air Force fighter force during the decade after the Vietnam War.

On his second day at Kirtland, he visited the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, the 377th Air Base Wing, the 58th Special Operations Wing, and the Air Force Research Lab. Many of these stops included tours of the different history-related displays on the base, including the Air Heritage Park on the west side of Kirtland.

"History is an integral part of the Air Force and the military because it is about plugging into the mission," said Mr. Anderegg. "There is a side of the Air Force history mission where documents are preserved and the lineages and honors of organizations are established and maintained. But, the historical side, the annual history that every historian does for his or her unit in the Air Force, documents the why and how of the decision process.

"First and foremost, we are the commander's historian that provides advice to the commander so that better, more informed decisions can be made today based off what has been done in the past by examining the why and how of the circumstances of those past decisions," said Mr. Anderegg.

The Air Force has experienced significant change and continues to face change. According to Mr. Anderegg, "History can help leaders during this time of significant change by giving them perspective. Leadership can ask questions such as: What was the Air Force was like when it had a different mission emphasis; what was the Air Force like when it was larger and had a broader mission area; what was the Air Force like prior to our 18 years of combat in the desert? History allows us to find the useful lessons we can pull from those experiences and others to apply to today's situation."

The 377th ABW and the 58th SOW will soon receive historians on staff and Mr. Anderegg offered some advice for these important team members. "Our primary job in the Air Force history program is to improve combat capability. The way that we do that is to document the 'why' and the 'how' of the decision making process," said Mr. Anderegg. "We are different from other institutional histories in the sense that we have historians who have security clearances, who have specialized training, and who work for and have access to the commander and the commander's staff. The value of the history comes from understanding how and why decisions are made today so that future commanders can look at a similar situation and understand why things were done the way they were done and how that reflects on today's situation so that they are better able to make decisions today."

The Air Force Historical Research Agency is located at Maxwell AFB, Ala., and maintains the 100 million pages of official Air Force archives. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, hosts more than 1.5 million visitors a year, collects, restores and displays air and space craft, a legacy that spans more than a century of military flight. The Historical Studies Office at the Anacostia Navy Annex in Washington, D.C., produces books, provides research facilities and organizes exhibits of historical value to the Air Force. The worldwide history program consists of more than 200 Air Force historians. They write the annual base, numbered air force and major command histories that document all Air Force activities.