Saving history, one unit at a time

  • Published
  • By Air Force Reserve Command History Office
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Do you know that feeling when you get a box of discarded, disorganized artifacts? Or the feeling you get when you see a file plan in disarray your first day in a new position? What about an empty office, with nothing but a computer and a chair, if you’re lucky? Most people confronted with this set of circumstances would shy away, feel overwhelmed, and, at their worst, give up. But then you have historians like Ben Herrington, the historian at the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

Herrington’s perseverance has enabled him to create successful history programs from the vestiges of programs formerly left to the wayside, left neglected and underappreciated. He seeks them out and does what he thinks any unit deserves: to have their history captured and appreciated. During his tenure as a historian, he has served as a traditional Reservist as well as a civilian and has turned four, soon to be five woefully delinquent history offices into award winning programs.

Herrington’s current objective is to capture and write the 507th Air Refueling Wing’s history; however, that’s not his only task. After working diligently with his unit, he brought his wing’s history program from fourteen years behind to current this year. But that wasn’t enough for him. Situated across the flightline from his office, Herrington took notice of the 513th Air Control Group and wondered what the unit’s story was.

The 513th ACG is a Reserve AWACS E-3 Sentry unit that falls under 10th Air Force but is administratively supported by the Reservists in the 507th ARW. Herrington soon discovered that the 513th had no formal written history since being reactivated in 1996. Herrington’s self-motivated nature took hold and he soon decided to volunteer his services for a task unfathomable to most: capturing a 25-year history!

When talking to Herrington about why he would attempt such a task, he explained that he has a passion for documenting history in the military setting.

“History is essential,” Herrington said. “I believe we can glean unique insights into decision-making when we go back and write the history after we already know what happened.”

He mentioned that we, as historians, write so close to the event that we may not capture all the information needed to tell the story. Writing catch-up histories has become a hobby for Herrington and one that’s been put to good use as the Air Force Reserve Command strives to fill in all its gaps.

Herrington believes everyone deserves to have their story told, and this current project showed him just how valuable the history of a Reserve unit is. While this project isn’t quite over the finish line yet, we know that Herrington will knock this out of the park, enshrining the history of another unit that was almost lost to time.

The 507th Air Refueling Wing is the largest Air Force Reserve Command flying unit in the state of Oklahoma. The 507th ARW reports to Fourth Air Force and performs daily missions both locally and around the world in support of Air Mobility Command and U.S. Strategic Command's national emergency war order requirements, operating out of Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The wing operates and maintains eight KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft providing world-wide aerial refueling to U.S. and NATO aircraft in times of peace, war, and national emergency.

For more information on Air Force history, visit Air Force Historical Support Division > Home (