Heritage To Make You Proud

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

“History makes you smart, Heritage makes you proud.” These were the words given to Brian Knowles, 434th Air Refueling Wing historian, when he was first beginning his career. He took them to heart then and continues to do so by using history to instill pride in the Airmen at Grissom.

Knowles, who also serves as a Marine Corps reservist, took on his role as the wing historian in 2019 and has since proved his dedication to the position.

This year, he received the Air Force Reserve Outstanding Individual Unit History Award, which recognizes historians for submitting on-time periodic history reports that exceed the standards.

However, this was only one of three awards Knowles was given this year.

In March he was also honored with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation Bartlett Award and then the Young Alumni Achievement Award by his alma mater, Roger Williams University.

"This spring has just been an honor for me, to be recognized for the work I’ve done from the Marine Corps and now the Air Force,” Knowles said. “I'm very honored that it works for both careers, I've basically been doing the same job on both sides."

And while it’s his name on the awards, Knowles wants the Airmen to know that it’s their story he’s telling.

“This is your history I’m writing, not mine. I’m just compiling it and making it readable,” he said.

Knowles has made great strides in his department, however, when he first stepped into the position he was welcomed with a huge problem.

The primary duty of a wing historian is to submit an annual report of the wing’s activities of the past year. Shortly after arriving, Knowles discovered that reports had not been created nor submitted for the years 2012 through 2019.

Nearly a decade of the wing’s history completely unaccounted for, and it was now his responsibility to fill in the blanks.

"That's the whole reason for us being here is to make sure we have those reports…So when the wing historians aren't submitting those, that means that all that information isn't being captured, and it's very difficult to capture that after the fact,” he said.

Knowles wrote up the eight missing reports, as well as the current reports. Despite everything being asked of him, he still managed to produce award-winning work.

As a historian, most of his day could be spent with his nose in a book, but he rather share those stories with the Airmen.

“I could very much just be an introvert, but I break my bubble and I get out there and try to meet more of the wing,” he said.

Stepping out of his office and out of his primary responsibilities, Knowles often visits the Development and Training Flight to share the history of the base with the trainees.

Knowles also put together a trip for the trainees to the National Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio that’s scheduled for next month.

"Translating [the history] into something instills pride and confidence for yourself and the Airmen at Grissom,” Knowles said. “That's the value of what your wing historian gives to their respective units."