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Skies pose no limit for AFISRA historian
Col. John Bansemer, Assistant Vice Commander of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, presents John Williamson, AFISRA Deputy Chief historian, with the award for his special study, "The Gateway to Open Skies: RAF Mildenhall and Beyond." It was named the 2010 Outstanding Special Study/Monograph for the United States Air Forces in Europe History Program. (Photo by William Belcher)
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Skies pose no limit for AFISRA historian

Posted 10/27/2011   Updated 11/3/2011 Email story   Print story


by Wayne Amann
Air Force ISR Agency Public Affairs

10/27/2011 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Perseverance has paid off for Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency Deputy Chief Historian John Williamson.

His special study, "The Gateway to Open Skies: RAF Mildenhall and Beyond," was named the 2010 Outstanding Special Study/Monograph for the United States Air Forces in Europe History Program.

The 74-page publication chronicles the efforts to promote mutual trust and confidence building among the Russian Federation, former Warsaw Pact countries, several European countries and the United States. It's a subject not previously written about by an Air Force historian.

"It was very important to me that the study represent the hard work of the entire Open Skies Treaty team and how it supports our national security objectives," Williamson said. "I'm honored it won at the major command level."

According to the award nomination, the study is designed as a hybrid product based on an oral history interview and eight almanac-like appendices of statistical and informational data for the general researcher. It included the history of issues, successes and lessons learned from planning to execution of the treaty, plus 33 photos and seven illustrations highlighting the activities and operations at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, current Open Skies treaty aircraft and more.

The recognition culminated several years of diligent effort by Williamson.

It began in 2008, when he was the historian for the 100th Aerial Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom. His project started as a simple oral history interview with Mr. Taylor Kunkle, the former Treaty Compliance Officer for the 100th ARW, and now Regional TCO for USAFE.

As Williamson continued his research, the project morphed into a compilation of Open Skies history, operations and statistical data.

The study was still a work in progress when Williamson was reassigned to the History Office in 2009.

"I had most of my materials when I arrived (at AFISRA), but I needed time to finish my research and complete the special study," he said. "I finally did in December 2010."

Williamson's finished product impressed his contemporaries and others involved in the treaty's operations.

"By keeping this study unclassified, John was able to produce a physical product that he could send to many agencies within the Department of Defense, Headquarters Air Force, European Command and USAFE," said John C. Sullivan, USAFE Command History Program director.
"His easy writing style drew raves from USAFE leadership."

The USAFE Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments staff provided immediate, positive feedback - "exactly the information we need."

Meanwhile, the EUCOM Operations Plans office, surprised that Air Force historians create this type of project, said, "If your guys produce any more of these reports, we want them and we want them fast."

With more than 22 years of experience behind him, Williamson says working as an Air Force historian is still rewarding because he's always learning something new every day.

"I also enjoy it because we produce something that will last-- our annual histories," he said. "One day, a historian will write the 'long' history of Air Force ISR and hopefully we'll have answered the right questions -- why we took a given path or action or what impact ISR had on our national security. That's our legacy and that's why I'm a historian."

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