Historian gives insight to past, present

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Everything has a history. From the moment of anything's inception, its history begins. History is an expansive word as it relates to the remembrance, discovery, analysis and recording of past events.

Gerald White, 99th Air Base Wing historian has an affinity for analyzing and recording past events.  As a walking archive of historical knowledge about the 99th ABW and Nellis Air Force Base, he is regarded as the authority on each's history.

"I track everything the 99th ABW does, or at least try to track," said White, "A lot of times it is statistical information. There are some things that get a little more in-depth, whether that's how many customers finance supports or how many buildings the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron has built or torn down, miles of road repair, personnel, and so on."

White not only tracks everything the 99th ABW does, he also garners requests from those searching for anything on family and friends such as old articles or photos.

"Folks who were stationed here or family, friends, uncles, fathers that were stationed here want more information. Some histories are better than others and a lot of the time I don't have anything and sometimes I get lucky," said White, "It's an interesting living; it's not the same thing every day. Some of it is repetition but I get to grind out the history."

White often assembles and maintains historical document repositories for reference and research, as well as performs interviews of personnel in regards to each subject.

"To be a historian to me, they all share a common theme and that is they are meticulous in recording facts and details. The historians record the details and Jerry is one of the best I have seen doing that," said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Cleveland, 99th Air Base Wing command chief.

White retired as a master sergeant in 2003 and has been a historian for 12 years.

"It's kind of a fluke, I ended up at the right place at the right time," said White. "One of my master's history courses I wrote a paper based on one of the squadrons at Dover AFB for the C-47s in World War II and the records I collected for them became the basis for a paper and later a book, so I had that on my résumé when the Air Force was hiring civilians and I was able to be hired on as a historian."

Historians are an integral piece to record keeping. White dedicates his days to preserving and maintaining the heritage the U.S. Air Force holds.

"Heritage is an important thing first and foremost. It is absolutely important to keep and maintain. It's one of those things that make us professionals. We came from somewhere, we learned the lessons and we are going somewhere," said Cleveland. "Without maintaining where you've been you really don't know where you're going, so having somebody as a repository of information to reach back into is important."