Returning historian excited for future


Jim Mesco, 50th Space Wing historian, sits at his office in the 50th SW headquarters building at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Oct. 16, 2017. Mesco worked as the wing historian from 1997-1999. Upon returning, he said the base and the wing has evolved in line with the space and cyberspace warfighting realms. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Tracy)


Returning to Schriever after a four year hiatus, Jim Mesco, Schriever’s new (or renewed) 50th Space Wing historian, is ready to help while preserving the past.

Formerly the wing historian from 1997-1999, and then the Space Innovation and Development Center (formerly the Space Warfare Center) historian from 1999-2013, Mesco worked for 16 years at Schriever.

“This is a second home,” Mesco said. “I’m excited to be back in an operational unit.”

Working as a historian since the 1980’s when it was an active duty career, and a life-long history lover since visiting old battlegrounds with his father as a child, Mesco’s own history is unique.

Born in Pennsylvania to a family with a lineage of military service, Mesco grew up witnessing many of the pivotal events of the 20th century.

“I remember watching all that went on with Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy,” he said. “These things I remember firsthand. With that in mind, I have a personal perspective on these events.”

Mesco continued his family heritage, joining the Air Force in 1980 as a missile crew member, before pursuing his passion and training as an Air Force historian in 1985.

“I read a lot about the fighting my father experienced from Normandy, I’ve always tried to get real firsthand accounts so I knew fact from fiction,” he said. “I enjoy this because it’s not just documenting old history; it’s the idea of keeping pace with what is really going on now.”

Retiring as a master sergeant after 24 years of service, Mesco continued serving as a historian for various military installations, such as Tinker and Peterson Air Force Base.

Those who worked with him can testify to his ability as a history expert.

Mark Wilderman, 375th Air Mobility Wing historian, knew Mesco when he himself was a missile crew member.

“Although we were assigned to different squadrons, Jim and I spent a great deal of off-duty time indulging our favorite hobby, model building, and traveling in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado,” he said. “Jim is extremely passionate about his work. His prior military experience and study of military history, coupled with his personal interests, make him a natural Air Force historian.”

Randy Saunders, the wing’s previous historian (now retired), who has known Mesco for more than 30-years, said he is sure Mesco will continue to be successful in reprising his role.

“Jim is passionate about history and is knowledgeable about Air Force history,” he said. “I expect he'll be successful coming home to the 50th Space Wing.”

Mesco said while the base has stayed relatively the same as far as structure and size, the wing’s overall operations have drastically changed.

“There’s a few additional facilities, but the difference is mainly the missions that have been added to the wing,” Mesco said. “We are bringing on newer systems that are better - that are helping the warfighter, and have increased the mission profile here within the wing.”

He plans on documenting this dynamic history in his renewed role.

“Since it was first built, this base has been the centerpiece for space and satellite operations for the Air Force,” Mesco said. “I see this base continuing to expand in terms of missions and what we do here.”

Fortunately for Mesco, documenting Air Force history is not only a career, but a passion that keeps on giving.

“I don’t get bored with the work,” he laughed. “I’ve done this for 32 years and I’ve always enjoyed doing it. It’s always something new and different.”