TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A few weekends ago, I found my father-in-law’s written memoirs of his life, including his time in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. I had only skimmed his personal history once before in the same type-written, simple-bound folder that represented his humble, kind nature. As I read it again, I realized connections of heritage, trust and innovation between heroes of the past and those serving today. This time, his writing reflected special meaning to me.
On April 3, the 22nd Airlift Squadron and the 21st Airlift Squadron will reach our shared 75th anniversary. We started as air transport squadrons in Australia in 1942 and bounced through the Pacific, ending at Travis Air Force Base, California in 1972 and 1993, respectively. Despite changes in people, airfields and airplanes since 1942, the echoes of excellence, the ripples of success and the honor of serving our nation roll through our squadrons daily.
Also in 1942, my father-in-law began Naval flight training in Kansas and culminated south of Travis AFB at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. In 1943, the demand for naval aviators lessened and many, including him, were released. However, he later shipped to the Pacific as a Naval air traffic controller.
Interestingly, some of his vivid memories include loading onto C-46s and C-47s and transporting between Guam, Okinawa, Japan and China in 1945. In his writings, I sense the excitement for those flights with the air transport squadrons. Even though he only had a thin raincoat for the frigid flights, he writes distinctively about his trust for the Airmen that delivered him to his destinations. It begins with trust and how we treat each other.
The World War II narrative is filled with fascinating vignettes of trust and innovation. In the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks, many new units played momentous roles in redefining America’s power. They had to solve complex problems in terms of logistics, technology and human resources. They didn’t always get it right, but they persisted together to do what is right. We can do the same.
The culture of trust demonstrated by our past heroes can inspire healthy climates for innovation. We should understand and respect our heritage: Read, think critically, engage and perform. Continuously enlist, commission and challenge young innovative airmen with fresh ideas, technological acumen and different perspectives. Listen to and trust each other at all levels, because we are never alone in this journey of camaraderie and excellence. Through all of this, we can remain adaptive to changing security environments. Today, we still represent America’s power across all oceans, within all combat theaters, throughout all humanitarian challenges and amongst all spectrums of technology.
My father-in-law and I unfortunately did not have enough conversations about the Pacific or these values before he passed. Despite not knowing if he ever flew with a 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron crew, I’ll always know that we share the same heritage, trust and innovative spirit that see our Airmen succeeding in remarkable ways today.