Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

The importance of history

(U.S. Air Force photo)
Staff Sgt. Josh Kennedy, 21st Space Wing Judge Advocate office, models the “Iron Mike” mascot in 2010 before the costume moved to its permanent home at the Peterson Air and Space Museum. The costume was named the 21st SW mascot during Guardian Challenge in 1996.

From 21st Space Wing History and 21st Space Wing Public Affairs Offices

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Homer. Herodotus. Winston Churchill. Julius Cesar.

Each of these people has one thing in common: history. These individuals captured events from their time and preserved stories through the written word. For centuries, we have relied on historians to capture the events of today in order to remember them in the future.

The Air Force also recognizes the importance of capturing events of today for historical documentation.

The Air Force history program is governed by Air Force Instruction 84-101. This AFI mandates component history offices to provide several services. At the 21st Space Wing, the historian details wing activities for historical documentation through the following methods:

• Research and write about the activities of the wing.

Each year, the wing historian collects information from component units and functions throughout the 21st SW. This information is collected and compiled into the 21st SW annual heritage pamphlet. You can find the most up-to-date heritage pamphlet at

• Preserve the heritage of the wing.

The base historian offers advice and counsel on the use and creation official emblems, morale patches, mottos, coins and logos. Official lineage and honors statements for each unit are also maintained and periodically revised.

• Serve as the primary repository of wing archives.

Wing archives, including paper, electronic or photographic records, reflect our history starting in 1942.

• Support component activations, inactivations, and writes annexes to plans.

The 21st SW history office is the point of contact for all component commanders and personnel for the full spectrum of historical needs.

• Promote wing heritage through keeping its long-term traditions alive.

In 1996, Brig. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman, former 21st SW commander, called a wing-wide competition to choose a mascot to represent the 21st at Guardian Challenge and other key events.

The history office sponsored a formidable knight known as “Iron Mike.” “Iron Mike,” a 65-inch, 45-pound steel suit of armor originally had been the mascot of the 21st Composite Wing, one of our lineal ancestors.

Throughout the 1960s, wing personnel had captured and recaptured the mascot in humorous attempts to hold onto this prized symbol of the eternal warrior. Our mascot had defended the wing in Alaska, flown to Greenland and California, and received a brief baptism of fire in Vietnam.

By the end of the 1970s, however, “Iron Mike” had been forgotten. He was reborn when Perryman declared him the winner of the wing competition. Today, “Iron Mike” can be found on display at the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

The preservation and understanding of our wing history, therefore, is a team effort that enshrines corporate memory.

Harvard philosopher and cultural critic George Santayana is remembered as having said, “Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.” History is the story of the past, the explanation of the present and the prediction of the future.

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