Deployed civilian scripts the tablet of history

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- During any contingency, coming together as a team is critical. Every Team Fairchild unit provides valuable contributions to the successful accomplishment of any given mission at home or abroad.

These deployable units are traditionally made up of flying squadrons and their maintenance counterparts, units from the mission support group, an allocation of medical professionals and members from wing staff agencies such as legal and safety.

However, during Exercise Thunderbolt, there is a non-traditional member of the team: the wing historian.

Dan Simmons, 92nd Air Refueling Wing historian, simulated a deployment with the troops to participate in the contingency. He is the 92nd ARW's first civilian historian, thereby making him the first civilian historian to deploy from the wing and the only deployed civilian in this exercise.

But this is not his first time downrange. He pulled more than 10 major real-world deployments during his 25 years as an active-duty Airman in the Air Force - retiring at the rank of colonel as the 92nd Operations Group deputy commander in 2003.

Deploying for the exercise here required him to wear his uniform for the first time since his retirement.

"I enjoy being back in uniform working with Air Force people because of the esprit-de-corps and caliber of the folks you typically find in the Air Force," said Mr. Simmons.

As a uniformed civilian, he is not authorized to don the eagles he once wore. Instead, he suits up in the civilian Air Force uniform, authorized during military contingencies or exercises.

He wears the battle dress uniform with only his nametape and an insignia consisting of a black triangle, with the letters "U.S." an inch above the left pocket. In a deployed situation to Southwest Asia, he would wear desert camouflage uniforms in the same configuration.

Mr. Simmons not only enjoys being back in uniform, but he also enjoys executing his mission as the deployed wing historian.

"My job during a deployment is to document operations for Air Force history," said Mr. Simmons. "Deployed operations during wartime are considered some of the most important components of our service's heritage - I am here to ensure that these notable events are recorded"

According to Mr. Simmons, maintaining these historical records also has significant operational impacts.

"It is important for heritage purposes to document what we've done; but it is more important to document lessons learned to aid in future operations," said Mr. Simmons. "Historians can impact commanders' decisions down the road by capturing important points from previous operations, such as key lessons learned."

He also uses the expertise of his deployed counterparts to record the history. "I rely on the knowledge and documentation of everybody on the team. This is why everybody's input is essential when recording our service's story."