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Historian opens door to Ellsworth past, future

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Each day, history is made at Ellsworth Air Force Base and the 28th Bomb Wing entrusts one person with the responsibility of preserving it for future generations.

John Moyes began a new chapter in his life when he recently took over as wing historian January 2015. Now, he spends his time capturing the Wing's history as well as answering questions Airmen and the community may have about Ellsworth's celebrated past.

"A historian's job is important because you need to be able to get the story straight today so it can be reflected on tomorrow ... anything that affects the Wing's mission has potential long-term historical value," said Moyes.

As a historian, Moyes has to be deliberate when documenting the Wing's history because accurately capturing the facts can ultimately affect the units on base.

"Historians have a very unique responsibility because in essence they provide the first cut analysis of what happened," he said.

Prior to coming to Ellsworth Moyes participated in the Palace Acquire program internship at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for two and a half years training to be a historian.

The Palace Acquire program is a way for the Air Force to recruit, train and place high caliber college graduates into demanding roles to meet operational needs.

As an intern, he was trained to keep an open eye for anything that could be historically relevant, recognize the proper documents, and ask the right questions.

Moyes added that history has been an ongoing passion of his since as early as he can remember.

"I owe my success to my parents," Moyes said. "I come from a family of veterans and older generation of grandparents. I heard their stories when I was a kid and read a great deal of history which continues to fascinate me."

He said he loves being able to do research to help people find answers.

"That's the fun part, knowing that I'm helping people find what they're looking for," he said. "Learning about the Wing -- aircraft, contribution to history, people and mission are fascinating. I like the notion of the detective work that goes into researching the wing and putting together pieces of the puzzle to make sure an accurate story is recorded."

Hundreds of documents are sent to Moyes every day. He sorts them and decides if they are pertinent to Ellsworth's history.

Moyes said historical documents are designed to provide Wing leadership with information from the past to help them make decisions.

"Present and future decisions are based on so many things such as data, information and common sense, but truly, it's experience that feeds these decisions," Moyes said. "When decisions involve the lives of people and billions of dollars of assets ...keeping an eye on what has previously happened is absolutely essential."

Apart from connecting people to the past, Mr. Moyes serves the community by documenting annual base activities.

"What I do today to record events around base benefits the people of tomorrow," he said. "When future generations are interested in knowing what the 28th Bomb Wing was doing at this point in history, they can use the records I'm keeping now."

Moyes added that he also enjoys interacting with the people who execute the mission and welcomes everyone who stops by with information requests.

A former squadron commander, Maj. Russell Richardson, told him once that the mission comes first but the people make the mission. Without them the mission cannot be accomplished.

The historian explained that today's Airmen and retired servicemembers matter, and that history tells their collective story.

"Knowing history is my job, and I document and research it for posterity," Moyes said. "But beyond that, I have a great love and respect for our proud military heritage and for the Airmen who are making history."