Fairchild regains historic 97th ARS memorabilia

  • Published
  • By Airman Kiaundra Miller
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing

A KC-135 Stratotanker and aircrew from Fairchild AFB retrieved the 97th Air Refueling Squadron’s heritage box from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, Aug. 20. Inactive since Sept. 30, 2004, the squadron’s box full of memorabilia brings the squadron’s history to light as they prepare to reactivate here on Oct. 1, 2019.

The squadron previously existed at Fairchild between 1994 and 2004. The squadron’s heritage box bridges the 15 year gap to allow the future squadron members to retain the proud heritage and culture of the Airmen who came before them.

"The biggest key is that [the memorabilia] brings heritage and the culture of the existing unit,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Hunsinger, 97th ARS boom operator. “It allows us to get a feel for the unit as it was.”    

The heritage box contained items such as awards Airmen obtained, photographs of members and several other objects with historical meaning. The box also contained the squadron’s guidon, something special that will be used in the reactivation of the 97th ARS.

“The [old] guidon will be the same guidon that we use in the activation ceremony,” said Lt. Col. Dieter, 97th ARS director of operations. “We’re able to use it because it’s in the same operations group, and the same wing.”

Airmen from the 97th ARS plan to use the heritage items from the box as a stepping stone to making the squadron their own. 

“We always want to be true and faithful to the heritage of the unit. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have leeway to make it our own as well,” Hunsinger said. “I think that for the success of the unit, it’s a combination of both in creating our own identity.”

Memorabilia from the box will also give Airmen an understanding of how ground-breaking the 97th ARS was prior to its inactivation.

“We learned a lot about things people didn’t realize, for example the 97th patch shows the big dipper on it because it was the first unit to do night air refueling,” Hunsinger said. “We can take those old stories and use them as ammunition to build the future based off of the past.”

After the unit deactivated, the remnants of the old 97th ARS were placed in the box and sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson.

“Every time a unit deactivates, there’s an Air Force Instruction that says you will put a certain number of items in a heritage box,” Dieter said. “It’s almost as if you’re being told to put a time capsule together. When it’s time [to reactivate] the Air Force says, ‘here is your identity, here is your unit number and insignia.’”

Through a legacy of heritage and culture, the 97th ARS is ready to reactivate and increase Fairchild’s role in rapid global mobility.