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Our Titans make history every day

Ryan Collins, 39th Air Base Wing historian, poses for a photo at his desk

Ryan Collins, 39th Air Base Wing historian, poses for a photo at his desk at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, July 23, 2018. As the historian Collins’ main priority is to have a current historical product. Once that requirement is met, he will turn his attention to the heritage portion of the career field.

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

For me, it is an honor to be here in the Republic of Turkey, a land where empires have risen and fallen since the beginning of recorded history. In fact, the first historian, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, now known as Bodrum, came from this land. Turkey is an amazing place and the friends I have made here will last a lifetime. It has been a joy to chronicle the events of the Titans.

Airmen may not always see the correlation to their jobs to big U.S. Air Force objectives, but before you understand where you fit in, you must understand how I became a historian.

I have heard it said, that the harder we work, the luckier we get, and I believe that mantra rings true and has been demonstrated in quantifiable measure.

You can often find me in the 39th Air Base Wing headquarters writing about the Incirlik Airmen or pouring over volumes of material. One day your story could be here as well.

I credit my grandfathers with inspiring my love of history. They had me reading early, took me to historical sites and kept that fire burning. Both served in the U. S. Army, one in First Army during World War II and the other in the Kentucky Army National Guard.

You could say that their papers, photographs and accounts were the first historical artifacts I ever touched, and the latest, a short article from 1976 that mentioned my uncle’s promotion to technical sergeant at Incirlik AB.

I have had the good fortune to meet with many veterans and spouses. Occasionally they present me with items that coincide with their service, or artifacts.

I have handled reed basket tops from Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam and photographs taken from a B-17 Flying Fortress over Dresden, Germany. These items are a solid connection between the people and machines of the past. They form a link between the U.S. Airmen and citizens of the U. S. today.

If you know someone who has served, take an interest. If you find something, say something. It may not be related to the unit you are in or even in the same branch of service, but your efforts could be the catalyst that fills a historical gap or enhances the heritage of the U. S. Air Force.

My number one priority is to have a current historical product. Once that requirement is met, I like to turn my attention to the heritage portion of my career field. Not only are such projects educational for our Airmen, but they inspire “Esprit De Corps”, foster unit cohesion and allow me to get to know the personnel making the mission happen every day. These relationships generate leads which enable me to reach out and ask for further data on pertinent subjects that enrich the historical products we generate as historians.

A typical day for me can include researching past events such as various operations, mission changes and policy updates, as well as the benefits and challenges that came with them. I prepare briefings for a live audience or over the radio. There are hefty doses of writing and answering inquiries from my most important customers, the command and occasionally from the major command and Congress.

There is never a dull moment in this career field, if one has a passion for history, the U.S. Air Force and their respective unit.

I am blessed to have all three and have been awestruck to see how much of an impact some of this work can have, even a century later, because the primary product of a U.S. Air Force historian is the history of their assigned wing.

I want to make each product the most comprehensive and best it can be. I want to make it great, because each wing is special in its own way. The 39th Air Base Wing is no exception. The Titans have a colossal history stretching back to World War II and a large mission today. We have to remember that as if it can help us in our current mission.

The famous Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher and writer of the Renaissance, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli stated, “I have found that the possession I value above all is the knowledge of the actions of great men. This knowledge has been acquired by long experience in contemporary affairs, and a continual study of history.”

Machiavelli understood that history is cyclical and each person will face adversity. It is through these opportunities and overcoming them that we advance.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ also noted, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

So, if we synthesize these two ideas and study, if we learn what has transpired and if we take bold action, then there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.

 When we became Titans we each faced a daunting choice. What will our story be?

Together we made that choice and through will and self-determination we made it great.