By Staff Sgt. Valerie Halbert, 31 FW Public Affairs
/ Published May 21, 2020
Various items are displayed on top of a time capsule at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. The 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron found the time capsules constructed by the class of 99-A Aviano Airman Leadership School. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
A picture of class 99-A Aviano Airman Leadership School, from a time capsule, is displayed with a wyvern patch and videotape at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. The class was made up of two flights with a total of 23 students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Szydlowski, 57th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, reviews an article from Stars and Stripes dated November 24, 1998 at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. The capsule was constructed by the class of 99-A Aviano Airman Leadership School. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael D. Szydlowski, 57th Rescue Squadron pararescueman, opens a time capsule at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. The class of 99-A Aviano Airman Leadership School requested the time capsule be opened by the first leadership school of the United States Air and Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the U.S. Space Force talks to Airmen during a virtual Airman Leadership School graduation at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. USSPACECOM is responsible for deterring conflict, defending U.S. and Allied freedom of action in space, delivering combat-relevant space capability to the joint/combined force, and developing joint warfighters to advance U.S. and Allied interests in, through and from the space domain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
A time capsule is displayed during a virtual Airman Leadership School graduation at Aviano Air Base, Italy, May 15, 2020. The capsule was constructed by the class of 99-A Aviano Airman Leadership School and it was requested to be opened by the first leadership school class of the United States Air and Space Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever)
When 2nd Lt. Connor Heneghan, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron ground transportation officer in command, was walking by an old storage container one morning, he unknowingly stumbled upon a long-forgotten piece of Aviano history, 21 years in the making.
“This time capsule was inside a metal storage container we use for forklift training,” said Heneghan. “I took a peek inside and there it was, right behind a washboard and a VCR player. Although the container has been picked up and moved around thousands of times by Airmen in vehicle training, I’m somewhat surprised at how good of a condition we found it in.”
The time capsule was in the form of a podium with an inscription listing the names of the 23 Airmen who were a part of the Aviano Airman Leadership School Class 1999-A which graduated in December of 1998. Also included was a message requesting that the time capsule be opened by the first leadership school of the United States Air and Space Force.
“We first heard about the time capsule when we got a call from LRS during a break in between lessons [and] they were polite enough to bring it over immediately” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Lucas Webber, Tech. Sgt. Adam K. Ginett ALS instructor. “Usually you always see time capsules as a shoe box or a little metal container, so it’s amazing to me that this podium went unnoticed or hidden for so long.”
For Webber, being a part of this moment in the schoolhouse’s history is both a privilege and an honor, he explained.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of both space exploration and Indiana Jones, so to discover an artifact from 20 years ago that kind of predicted a future Space Force is just the best of both worlds for me,” said Webber. “That, along with us instituting the first ever virtual ALS class for the Air Force and [at the time] commemorating Space Week, the timing could not be better.”
The time capsule was opened during a live video broadcast in conjunction with the graduation of virtual ALS class 20D. During the live broadcast, Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the United States Space Force and Command Senior Enlisted Leader of United States Space Command, participated remotely and spoke to the graduating Airmen.
“This is pretty exciting, in 1999 I was a Tech Sgt.,” said Towberman. “I don’t know what was happening during the time for that ALS class but this is pretty neat. I think this Zoom meeting reminds us that we probably weren’t predicating this [current COVID-19 situation]; we probably thought we’d be sitting together when we opened it and everyone would be face to face. It’s really a reminder how you can’t predict change.”
The time capsule contained old legacy uniform items, class pictures, a VHS tape, letters from students describing where they would be in 10 to 15 years, old currency and more.
“[Inside] there was an article from 1998 with U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, Gen. John Jumper, presenting then-Lt. Col. David Goldfein, 555th Fighter Squadron commander at Aviano, with the Fighter Squadron of the Year trophy,” said Master Sgt. Kelani Mendiola, Tech. Sgt. Adam K. Ginett ALS commandant. “There was also an article with Russia’s space station Zarya sitting in the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour’s robot arm as they orbited the Earth.”
Mendiola was able to locate one of the students from the 1999-A ALS class, retired Master Sgt. Kenneth Creamer. Creamer is now a network infrastructure contractor with the 53rd Computer Systems Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
“I was a 2E4X1 at the time, which was space systems maintenance and my assignment in Spain was maintenance for the Transportable Optical System,” said Creamer. “TOS, a telescope system, had space system operators and us maintainers as part of Space Command. I was part of a cadre of individuals that stood the site up which has now since shutdown.”
Although he doesn’t remember much from that time, Creamer said he enjoyed his time at ALS and met some great people. He explained, finding out about the time capsule was a nice run down memory lane.
Contents from the time capsule will be the first items on display in the Tech. Sgt. Adam K. Ginett ALS heritage room and today’s students plan on keeping the tradition alive.
“ALS class 20D is interested in building their own time capsule to commemorate the opening,” said Mendiola. “They have talked about adding their own legacy items and combining a few of the items found in the capsule. Once opened, the future students would have over 40 years of Air Force and Aviano history.”