A & S Interview: Dick Anderegg
A talk with the Air Force historian.
- By Patricia Trenner
- Air & Space magazine, May 2008
A former F-4 Fighter Weapons School instructor pilot and F-15 squadron commander, Clarence R. “Dick” Anderegg flew 170 combat missions during the Vietnam war. He is the author of The Ash Warriors, a history of the evacuation of Clark Air Base when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, and Sierra Hotel, which discusses the cultural changes in the U.S. fighter force after the Vietnam war. Air & Space Senior editor Patricia Trenner talked in February with Anderegg, whose official title is Director, Air Force History and Museum Policies and Programs.
A&S: How do you think the Iraq and Afghanistan engagements will be seen by historians of the future in terms of how they will shape the technology and culture of the Air Force?
Anderegg: There has been a significant evolution of the roles of the joint forces air component commander and the combined air operations center beyond that which we saw in Desert Storm in 1991. Clearly, the application of technology to the command and control of joint air services has improved dramatically. The Air Force sees this blend of joint combat power and combat control as the way of the future to meet the needs of a joint forces commander. Of course, the ability of the Air Force to precisely strike targets has been superb, especially in consideration of its ability to avoid collateral damage. Precision strike will be on the pages of every history that studies our combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s arguable whether the technology drives the culture or the culture drives the technology, but they are in lockstep today.
A&S: What is your take on the greatest moments of AF history after its first 50 years?
Anderegg: Certainly there have been many victories, starting with our first battle of the Cold War: the Berlin Airlift. As important as victories, though, are the far-reaching changes the Air Force envisions. I think that there’s a high probability that 50 years from now historians will view the formation of an Air Force cyber command as an historical watershed. Formation of an organization that can organize, train and equip cyber warriors for presentation to the combatant commanders many very well alter the military in ways we have no way of envisioning today. Cyber is a domain like any other: air, space, land, sea. Potential enemies will want to operate in it, so we must be able to dominate it.
A&S: How does the AF use history in its planning and policy?
Anderegg: In countless ways. The Air Force history program is extensive, and we have historians at every Air Force base in the world. Presently I have eight historians serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Together this program produces some 400,000 pages and supporting documents of Air Force history a year. Commanders at all levels have access to it and use it to understand why and how decisions were made in the past so that they may make better decisions today. I’ve never been a fan of the adage that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. The value of history is that it teaches one the right questions to ask.
A&S: How do you think the Air Force should address the F-15 problem?