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January 31, 2010 at 9:03am

Discovery opens glimpse into McChord's past

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- When Staff Sgt. Josh Kreutzer, 62nd Civil Engineer Squadron, unearthed a box of jumbled papers under the wing chapel last month referencing McChord Field, he hadn't discovered part of a secret or lost Joint Base Lewis-McChord transition plan.

Rather, the documents offered a glimpse of McChord's past - dating to a time when servicemembers went on furlough, the per diem rate was $2 per day for lodging, "pets and friends" were expressly not authorized during temporary duty travel, and new enlistees reported to the Indoctrination Division of Air Training Command in San Antonio, Texas, for processing.

Sergeant Kreutzer and Thomas Wyatt, also 62nd CES, had been working on a maintenance issue underneath the McChord chapel when the sergeant came across what he describes as simply "a hole in the ground". Taking a closer look, he noticed something in the hole - a container of some kind.

Lifting the documents out, the box itself basically fell apart, he said, but a majority of the papers were in excellent shape. He quickly called for Mr. Wyatt and soon they were flipping through the pages of distant McChord and Air Force history.

Some of the better-preserved documents include special orders from McChord Field, copies of Air Force Association and Reserve Officer magazines from 1947-48, radio scripts, religious posters, and a stack of programs for the 1947 base chapel Christmas service.

"These documents likely hadn't seen the light of day in 40 to 50 years," said Mr. Wyatt, "possibly longer than that."

"It's really an amazing find," he said. "Every now and then we'll find an old coin here or there, but nothing of this magnitude."

Sorting through the documents, he even found a pristine 1948 calendar and located his own date of birth - May 9.

After making a few phone calls to see where the documents should go, Sergeant Kreutzer delivered the historical treasure trove to Master Sgt. Susan Robinson, 62nd Airlift Wing historian.

"I was amazed" she said. "I've only been serving as the historian for a few weeks and this provided a truly unique look into the past."

"It really opened my eyes to the important role of the historian - occasions like this are opportunities to preserve the proud culture and heritage of McChord," said Sergeant Robinson.

While it remains a mystery exactly how or why the box ended up under the chapel for decades, many of the documents appear to have once been the property of McChord Field Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Elbert L. Atkinson.

"Now that we've come full-circle, perhaps someone 60 years from now will unearth a box of 'McChord Air Force Base' documents or discs and have the same sense of 'wow'," said Sergeant Robinson.

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