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DURING AN INBRIEFING, I asked Maj Gen Charles N. Simpson, at that time the director of air and space operations for US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), what services he expected from USAFE's History Office (HO). "I'm not exactly sure what you provide me," he responded. "Frankly, if you cannot provide me real-time service--what I need, when I need it--then you really cannot help me at all." His answer was direct, to the point, eye-to-eye, and delivered exactly as most of us in the history business want our dealings with our commanders. However, the statement was both revealing and alarming. It was revealing because it followed on the heels of comments from Gen John Jumper, then the chief of staff of the Air Force, who challenged the service's historians to "do whatever it takes to be more involved in, and help improve the combat capability of the United States Air Force." (1) It was alarming because if we historians fail to provide our leadership with timely services, then perhaps our career field may soon become extinct!
Expectations of Wing Commanders
An unofficial survey of 20 current and former wing commanders elicited a fairly unanimous understanding of the day-to-day functions of a wing historian. (2) Most saw the emphasis on maintaining lineage and honors, organizing historical displays, providing material for speeches, and writing the wing's required periodic historical reports. (3) Unfortunately, few gave even cursory indications of mirroring General Jumper's call for historians to involve themselves in and help improve the combat capability of the Air Force. Historians improving combat capability? What a concept! Do wing commanders believe that this is possible? In fact, very few commanders saw their historians as combat multipliers. Furthermore, they nearly always found themselves pulling information from historians instead of historians pushing data and historical perspectives forward. Education, however, can significantly improve …