TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – The 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs office here, scanned and digitally archived more than 30 years of unit newspapers and made them available to the public on the unit’s official website in January of this year.
Until now, hard copies of the Sooner News (1965-1971), Thunderchief (1974-1978) and On-final (1981-2004) were stored in a closet of the 507th ARW headquarters basement, making access difficult for unit personnel, past and present.
Public Affairs personnel began the task of archiving in August 2019 after receiving a request for scanned copies of a few historic On-finals, which at the time were not available online.
After a few months of digging, organizing and scanning, the PA team noticed that one name was a constant in the publications, appearing in On-final editions over the course of three decades; Rich Curry.
Tech. Sgt. Rich Curry first appeared in the March 1982 edition of the On-final as a writer, where he wrote a story on a chief who had served 30 years in the Air Force. Coincidentally enough, Curry would follow in that chief’s footsteps himself by retiring as a lieutenant colonel more than 30 years later from the 507th ARW.
Curry joined the unit, known as the 507th Tactical Fighter Group at the time, one year after the paper transitioned from the Thunderchief to the On-final and said that he liked the name change.
According to Curry, the name of the paper would come into question again in 1988, while the unit transitioned from the F-4D Phantom to the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“The ‘On-final’ name is appropriate to aviation in general,” Curry said. “At that time, people wanted to change the name to reflect the aircraft. I pointed out that if we did that, we’d have to change the paper’s name every time we changed aircraft in the future, so the name ‘On-final’ stayed.”
One change Curry did make, though, was the aircraft illustration which was a part of the On-final logo placed at the top of the paper.
“In the old logo, there was a drawing of an F-4 flying through the ‘O’ of ‘On-final,’” Curry said. “But as the transition months went on, I changed it by having the F-4 ‘fly’ away off the page while an F-16 flew into the F-4s spot.”
The changes can be seen in the September 1988- January 1989 editions of the On-final.
Throughout his years in the unit Public Affairs office, Curry took great care to preserve photographs, video footage and printed copies of the unit’s newspapers. This attention to detail proved invaluable when intact copies of the Sooner News were rediscovered.
Curry, a self-proclaimed history buff, said he was pleasantly surprised that they had been found and enjoyed viewing the publications online.
The last mention of Curry is in the November 2011 edition of the On-final, where he’s listed as Chief, Public Affairs for the 507th ARW. Due to his retirement, another On-final wouldn’t appear until 13 months later.
His successor, Capt. Jon Quinlan, revived the publication in December 2012 and now serves at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, as a lieutenant colonel.
Over the years, the name and face of the unit has evolved, along with the aircraft and the people who work in the wing. All have changed and will continue to do so, however, one thing that will never change is the history and memories made here.
Col. Kenneth Humphrey, 507th Operations Group commander and lifetime Okie, said he values the printed copies of the unit’s newspapers and the ability now to disseminate them online to all members is a plus.
“We need to stay in front of technology when it comes to passing information to our members,” Humphrey said. “Our wing’s history is something I’m proud to have been a part of and I hope to continue passing the 507th legacy on to our new members.”
According to Humphrey, the wing has a subculture that makes up an identity of shared history, conflicts, beliefs, good times and bad times. He said it’s something to take pride in and it’s what makes the wing an extended family for him.
“History tells us where we have been, and those who forget it tend to make the same mistakes,” he said. “It’s important to remember the faces, events and aircraft that have culminated into the incredible unit we have become.”
To view the 507th ARW newspaper archive, visit https://www.507arw.afrc.af.mil/About-Us/On-Final/.