Wednesday, August 24, 2016

   A Little Bit of Everything: Reflections on an Internship

        I’ve had a productive few months with my internship at the Air Mobility Command Museum. Based in Dover, Delaware, the AMCM is the only museum in the world dedicated to military airlifters and tankers. In plain terms, it tells the story of the cargo planes used by the American military from World War Two to the present day. My jobs at the museum have been varied, but usually involved research and writing projects, museum education, and restoration work.

The Museum's sign and T-33 "Shooting Star" gate guard.
         My research project was to study two interceptor squadrons stationed at Dover Air Force Base during the Cold War, the 98th and 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. This project began back in February, but I still managed to find a number of new sources over the summer. The first of these was a set of Official Histories courtesy of the Air Force’s Research Department at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL. These consist of quarterly write ups by a member of the squadron, and include things like recent awards, maintenance records, and, especially in the older issues, mortuary notices. Also, two former ground crew members, one from each squadron, were kind enough to provide interviews for the project. These detailed the challenges associated with keeping the fighters in a state of readiness and helped liven up the narrative of dry official histories with human voices.

Squadron patch of the 95th FIS, featuring the 95th's mascot, Mr. Bones.

          From these sources, I wrote a history of each squadron for the museum’s records. Since the 95th is still in service, I sent their history to the historian currently responsible for their records. My research has also produced two articles for the AMCM’s newsletter, one about the aircraft flown by the 98th FIS and another about the 95th’s temporary deployment to Alaska back in the winter of 1969. I was lucky enough to have some lively sources for the latter, namely a newspaper article written by a very disgruntled (and very cold) Information Officer sent on the deployment. Finally, I wrote an advertising piece about the museum that is soon to be bound for Fly Past, a UK based aviation history magazine.
         The education part of my internship consisted of helping with a summer camp for kids at the museum. I gave a quick presentation on the history of flight, led the kids on a pre-flight check of one of the museum’s airplanes, and demonstrated the use of the flameless ration heater used to warm up MREs. Beyond that, my job was to help corral kids and help out my co-teacher in any way that I could.
         Finally, I’ve been helping the restoration team snazz up the cockpits of the museum’s F-101B and F-106. The goal is to display these for the museum’s 30th anniversary in September, during which I plan on acting as a guide for one or both of the aircraft. Reading about airplanes is fun, but going through their maintenance manuals and getting parts of them to work is really something special. The coolest moment so far has been seeing the F-101’s canopy open and close using its still functioning hydraulic system. 

The F-101B with its canopy open. The generator on the left provides power to the aircraft, allowing the canopy to open and close.

            This internship has been an ideal experience. I don’t believe I’ve had two days that are exactly alike, which is beyond fine by me. The only trouble is that it all went by so quickly, although I am planning to keep tabs on the museum so I can pitch in during the semester.  

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