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Recording history: One man records Laughlin's heritage

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nathan Maysonet
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
Laughlin has a rich history. Her story is written by the thousands of Airmen who have lived, worked and flown here in the base's 74 year history, and Laughlin's lineage and honors can be traced to several key moments in U.S. history.

Helping to preserve these stories and the legacy of the world's second largest pilot training base for future generations, is one man.

Casey Connell, 47th Flying Training Wing historian, is responsible for crafting the wing's narrative each year for the Air Force, and for helping anyone interested in Laughlin's, and the Air Force's, history.

"History is important to all of us," Connell said. "It's important to our sense of place, where we are at, and where we are from. When people think of Air Force history they usually think of things such as the Doolittle Raid and the bombing of Nagasaki, but history is also about the guy just looking for his old service record. Finding an old photo of one's service is important to a person who thought it was lost forever, and that personal history means more to them then Doolittle."

Connell arrived at Laughlin two months ago from Kadena Air Base, Japan, where he worked as the historian for the 18th Wing. Now, Connell calls Laughlin, a town much larger than his birth place of Luverne, Minnesota, home.

"I like Laughlin," Connell said. "I like the idea that I'm learning about how we train pilots. I'm going backwards, I've seen how pilots perform their duties and now I'm seeing and recording where they come from. Without pilots and planes there is no Air Force and no story."

As the wing's historian, Connell must interview personnel and research reports, memos and other various documents to help him breakdown the base's organizational structure, mission, training, aircraft maintenance, safety issues, exercises and awards, into a massive report each year for the Air Force.

"This is a comprehensive look at the base in totality," said Connell. "It's everything that goes on at the base."

This report is only a small part of what Connell considers his real responsibility here, which is helping to ensure no Airmen's legacy is lost, no matter how simple or insignificant it may seem, he explained.

"I think about all of the stories that might never be told," Connell said. "We are in the Air Force, but obviously not everyone is, so we have to promote our history and tell these stories. History provides the frame work for the heritage and institutional memory of the Air Force and all of us are a part of that record. Even if you just worked in the military personnel flight for 20 years, you provided a piece of history that lets us move forward."

From a woman who finds old photos of her grandfather's service in an attic, to the war journal of a vet, it's these small mementos that Connell hopes to collect, catalogue and pass on while here, he explained.

"Most people think it's my job to solely tell our story but story telling is only possible if you, the Airman, write your story," said Connell. "If you have photos or a journal from your service you might consider giving the Air Force those things. Those things show us a piece we might not otherwise see."

This storytelling is why Connell loves his job, and why he hopes to get out and show Laughlin what a historian is all about.

"I'm not an expert on the Air Force, I'm still learning," said Connell. "I need to know more about maintenance and flight operations, because my job is to become an expert at the Air Force. I need to, and want to, talk with you. How can I write about Laughlin's history if I don't talk and connect with people?"

If you have a story to tell or just want to talk history, Connell's door is always open.

"This isn't a job, it's a passion," said Connell. "I love history and talking to people about it. You learn more by talking to people about it. Help me build a bigger story from the little stories."