MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
With every generation of Airmen, there are lists of stories and sacrifices that are made.
At the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute it’s their mission to ensure the history of enlisted airmen are never forgotten.
The AFEHRI was established in 1997 and is now home to approximately 230 displays, each one showcasing a different piece of Air Force history.
Air Force museums are not uncommon, however, the AFEHRI is the only Air Force museum to focus solely on telling the stories of its enlisted corps.
Chief Master Sgt. Emily Shade, AFEHRI director, said there are enlisted Airmen showcased at the museum who were absolutely amazing.
To get their stories out, the AFEHRI has two different mission sets, first and primarily, the research institute and then the museum.
The research institutes houses about 230,000 historical documents, most of them the original copies, and about 2,000 reference materials.
Staff Sgt. Eisha Bynum, AFEHRI assistant curator, works directly with all the documents stored at the facility. When asked what piece of information she’s found the most interesting since working at the AFERHI, she said the Air Force has a lot history that a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to see and learn about.
With these resources, the AFEHRI staff are responsible for fielding any inquiries about Air Force enlisted history and writing the first two chapters of the Airman’s Manual.
Shade estimated that the office receives on average 90 inquiries a quarter, ranging from easy to find questions to topics that require some digging.
The second mission is the museum, which is the face of all the hard work done behind the scenes.
Shade said that one of the most important aspects of sharing the enlisted story is to take the opportunity to teach ourselves a thing about the past.
Master Sgt. Michael Winkle, AFEHRI superintendent, had no idea what to expect when he was assigned to the museum and said he was completely beside himself when he realized he could have a job like this while in the Air Force.
Winkle himself was not a history buff before arriving to the AFEHRI three years ago, but has since realized the importance of knowing your history.
“It’s vitally important that we remember where we came from. There were so many sacrifices made in the past and if we lose sight of that, we’re going to lose sight of where we need to be in the future,” Winkle said.
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