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Malmstrom historian says 'I have the best job in the Air Force'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Reading, scanning and organizing in solitude consumes his days at Malmstrom Air Force Base. After whittling down 6,000 documents of information - from court martials to change of commands to the consolidation of an organization - a year's history is written on 250 pages.

For nearly 15 years he has worked entirely by himself.

"History isn't just about what happened long ago - it's the past and the present," said William Medema, 341st Missile Wing historian. "What every Airman does here, right now, is history. Everyone on this base is going to be able to look back on their years when they're sitting in a nursing home and be able to think about all the important things they did while they were stationed at the 341st Missile Wing and that should give them a sense of pride."

If Medema's vocation as a historian isn't an indication of his appreciation for the Air Force, his deep roots in the military spans nearly 40 years and is proof of the pride he has for serving his country.

"I enlisted in the Army National Guard in December 1975," he said. "I went through college and majored in political science and history. Then when I was 26 years old I enlisted in the Air Force in 1984 as a supply troop. As the supply career field was winding down, I decided to retrain into the history career field, which was enlisted at the time."

From 1999 to 2007 Medema worked as a historian until it came time for him to retire as the career field transitioned to the civilian sector.

"I was going to retire and apply for a civilian position as a historian," he said. "But I just happened to make senior master sergeant so I had to retrain again and became the operations coordinator for the Defense Attaché in Monrovia Liberia until finally retiring in 2008."

Medema's unintentional opportunity becoming a historian eventually took him to various bases, including Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, and Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

"Being a historian was never something I tried to be," he said. "But I absolutely love it. I always have a sense of purpose in my job. The actions we take today have probably happened in the past. Everyone looks at examples of the past so they don't make the same mistakes again or they do the things that were right again."

Medema says being a historian requires self-organizational skills and the ability to work without being monitored.

"There is no worst part about this job," he said. "To be successful in this job you have to be able to read documents extremely fast and be able to scan and know what's going to be germane to what really needs to be put into the history and what's not. If it takes a historian a long time to read something and they can't process, categorize or prioritize it fast, they'll never get anything done."

To document a year's worth of history at Malmstrom, Medema says he works with every squadron on base.

"I always try to be as thorough as I can," he said. "In 20 years, someone will want to know what happened at Malmstrom. Documenting and knowing the history of this base is important to give us a sense of community. Every person here plays a role in the history of the Air Force."