49th Wing gets new historian

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel E.F. Liddicoet
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., is home to a rich heritage that spans the course of 70 years. From its creation in 1942 as the Alamogordo Army Airfield, a distinguished history of sacrifice and commitment has unfolded. The 49th Wing's new historian, James Burrett, will be charged with the unique task of preserving and continuing to document that tradition.

For Burrett, the journey to becoming an historian started as an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force.

"Believe it or not, I wore stripes," said James Burrett, 49th Wing historian. "I was a Staff Sergeant. working for the 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek, Mich. I was working on A-10 Thunderbolts when the position of wing historian came open, and I applied for it and was accepted in 2003."

After his time as an enlisted historian, Burrett went on to work as a civilian staff historian for the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Following that assignment, Burrett became the wing historian for the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, in 2008. Burrett then went back to work at AFOTEC briefly before his most recent position as the wing historian here.

Despite Burett's transition to becoming a civilian historian, he still manages many of the same responsibilities as enlisted personnel.

"One of the unique things about my position is that I'm what's termed as emergency essential personnel," said Burrett. "Which means I get to do all the fun stuff active duty does in uniform, but I get to do it as a civilian. That includes exercises, deploying and weapons training."

As the historian at Holloman AFB, Burrett's mission primarily centers around preservation and documentation.

"My job is to preserve and document the history of the wing," said Burrett. "That means going out and not only talking to people, but collecting the actual historical documents. I have to establish relationships with commanders and their staffs to get that cooperation. I need their help to tell the story of the wing.

"I take in all this information from various units and I collect it, synthesize it, interpret it, and write about it. Then all these documents get numbered, and are put into a supporting documents file. Some of our histories have more than 30 volumes of supporting documents."

At Holloman AFB in particular, Burrett is tasked with a long and varied history to document.

"There's a lot of history here at Holloman. Going back to World War II, you had three training groups here, two bomb groups and a fighter group, and the bomb groups later went on to fight in action," said Burrett. "You also have the test track out here. Colonel Stapp also did a lot of his runs out there as the fastest man alive. Also, we were the first base to publicly have F-117 Nighthawks."

The mission of the historian is one that is essential to Holloman AFB.

"The best part of my job is being able to help people understand the history and heritage of their unit," said Burrett. "Because when people understand that, they take more pride in where they are."