Spangdahlem Air Base
52nd Fighter Wing
The 52nd Fighter Wing Enlisted Heritage Committee delivered a custom-made glass and oak curio case to the enlisted heritage room March 29, 2007 as part of an ongoing effort to preserve USAFE's enlisted men and women's contributions to USAFE and the U.S. Air Force.
The room, named in honor of the eighth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Sam E. Parish, stood up Sept. 22, 2006. In January, USAFE Command Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman charged all USAFE command chiefs with providing an enlisted heritage exhibit from their respective wing or base for the room. Answering the charge, 52nd FW Command Chief Master Sgt. Vance Clarke asked the 52nd FW Top 3 to form a committee to research, document and preserve a museum-quality exhibit for display in the room to honor Spangdahlem's enlisted contributions, both past, present and future.
"Enlisted heritage is very important, but by the amount of it you can find, you may not think so," Chief Clarke said. "We don't capture as many facets of our enlisted accomplishments as many would think. Just try and see how many years of annual award winners you can find in your unit, let alone how many crew chiefs launched jets, how many firefighters put out fires, and how many postal people put up the mail ... and on and on.
"The work of the Heritage Team that put this beautiful case and contents together scores a major victory for us in how we begin to save and display enlisted heritage," Chief Clarke said. "This effort is one that our entire wing can be proud of. This team took on a simple challenge and set the bench mark for displays in the USAFE Parish Heritage Room. I am very proud of them and what their effort represents."
The 52nd FW historian, Kevin Rieders, guided the committee members through the available historical record of both the wing and the base. The committee met weekly and soon realized that tracing enlisted heritage was no easy feat.
"Official histories often reflect measurable collective achievements, such as sorties and hours flown, without capturing the accomplishments of the enlisted force integral to those achievements," Mr. Rieders said. "Perhaps these exhibits will inspire our force to better document enlisted accomplishments for the heritage rooms our successors set up, and the historical records they will rely on."
The committee members, along with Chief Clarke delivered the display to the USAFE command chief for inclusion in the Heritage Room. Chief Coleman remarked that the wing's display set the bar for future displays.
"Without a doubt, the Spangdahlem contribution by Chief Clarke and his team has greatly enriched the Parish Enlisted Heritage Room," the chief said. "It's beautifully made and its historical artifacts have set a high standard for subsequent contributions from fellow USAFE wings. Everyone who played a role in creating the display can take great pride in an accomplishment that will continue to represent their fellow Airmen long after their Air Force careers have ended."
Tech. Sgt. Terrance Williams, 726th Air Mobility Squadron and Tier Two representative, found the tasking challenging and rewarding.
"I'm sure visitors will appreciate the direction and effort the committee put into the display," he said. "The curio itself and the artifacts presented in our display set a new precedent in regards to presentation of historical accounts in the Heritage Room. The distinction between our display and the others is evident and characterizes the pride and honor of the enlisted men and women of the wing and its tenant units."
The wing's display is just the beginning of what Chief Clarke hopes to accomplish in terms of preserving enlisted heritage in the future.
"We are establishing a standing heritage committee and welcome anyone who is willing to assist. Our plans are to develop a recurring update of the case and to develop more means to save and record 52nd FW enlisted heritage," Chief Clarke said.
Additionally, the chief added that during a recent visit to Spangdahlem, the fifth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force (ret.) Bob Gaylor summed up the wing's concerted effort to preserve enlisted heritage in one word, "Wow!"
The 52nd FW Enlisted Heritage Display became a reality through a wide variety of donations and volunteers, including civil engineers, the wing Historian, multi-media and members from the Top 3, Tier II and First Four Organizations. The display is touted as a living history display because it allows wing personnel to update it as historical facts are uncovered or history is made. The display and other exhibits from other USAFE locations in the Paris Enlisted Heritage room are open for viewing Monday through Friday during duty hours.