Incredible history on the wall

  • Published
  • By Airman Victoria Nelson

A display case in the 157th Maintenance Group hallway is filled with photos, trophies and other artifacts chronicling the squadron’s celebrated history. More than 100 photographs and placards along the wall lead visitors through the past 70 years in maintenance. Within each era, framed photos depict the wing’s mission and images of those Airmen who accomplished it.

    The heritage wall was proposed and brought to life by retired Master Sgt. Harold Fuller, a supervisor from the 157th Maintenance Group. 

    Fuller said the wall was inspired by a smaller scale history wall he saw in the Vermont Air National Guard Maintenance shop.

    “I spent some time in their maintenance hangar and noticed they have a history wall,” recalled Fuller. “I thought, ‘that’s really cool, why don’t we have one of these?’ There’s a lot of heritage in this maintenance building as there is in the Air Force and the wing.”

    Jacob Ricciotti, a pilot with the 157th Operations Group, said Fuller made this project his swan song.

    "The hardest part fell to Harold,” said Ricciotti. “He not only was in charge of the trim board, display case and artifacts, but on top of all that overseeing everyone working on it. This project will outlast his tenure here and it shows how much he cares about this unit.”

     Fuller was surprised the project gained the momentum it did soon after it he suggested the project to others. He said the result was exactly what he hoped would happen.

    “You can see the impact,” said Fuller. “From when we were putting it up to the people walking down the hall. The feedback was all positive. People said we should have done this a long time ago.”

    Fuller explained how the project’s success came from members of the committee, especially Ricciotti and Tech. Sgt. Phil Carter, who were in charge of photos and frames. Another key contributor was Chuck Bennett, the electrician for the project, who volunteered his time and enthusiasm.

    “We had around 10 people on the committee and they all had something to offer,” said Fuller. “From history to artistic capabilities, they all wanted to be involved. We had people that had pictures and stories and all kinds of stuff to contribute. So the whole project gained momentum and that really helped it happen.”

    Ricciotti agreed, adding he was overwhelmed by the completed project in October 2016.

    “Phil Carter and I decided to swing for the fences, made a large proposal and everyone went for it,” said Ricciotti. “We had to do a lot of leg work to keep that many historical photo reprints, frames, and other bits in a shoestring budget. I look back and cannot believe how much extra work it took, I totally underestimated the scale of the project.”

    Fuller said all of their hard work and effort paid off and he believes the committee was able to capture the story of the maintenance shop and the wing.

    “It all came together,” said Fuller. “We wanted to document the four different eras and we really focused on the transition the maintenance group has gone through. There was a lot of effort put into it.”

    Fuller added, the Heritage Wall has exposed personnel in the shop and visitors to the incredible history of the Airmen here.

    “It’s something to look at and understand where we came from and where we’re going,” said Fuller. “I think it’s had a huge impact on the people here and the visitors coming into the maintenance building. We have chronicled the whole story of maintenance and the wing.”

    Fuller said he believes the wall has provided a look into the wing’s past.

    “If we had not built it, you would have never seen those pictures from 1947 or known that we flew the airplane in those photos,” said Fuller. “If you take the time to read some of those placards you see the history behind this shop and this base.”

    The project has a lot of enthusiasm and there are many people who would like to see it continue, Fuller said.

    “I hope the wall isn’t static,” said Ricciotti. “I hope it is a jumping-off point for other members around the base to see it on Christmas drill and think, ‘hey, what’s my squadron’s heritage?’”

    The heritage wall has given life to the vibrant history of the maintenance shop, the 157th ARW and the 70 years of airpower and innovation of the U.S. Air Force.

    “Today, we are an exceptional wing because of where we have been and what we have done,” said Ricciotti. “The leaders of our past held us to an achievable standard of excellence and I hope this heritage wall will serve as something for future generations to appreciate where we have come from.”