AF lauds OSI command historian, again

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs

For Air Force Office of Special Investigations Command Historian Dr. Deborah Kidwell, there’s no time like the past.


For the second consecutive year Kidwell has earned the Air Force’s Warren Trest Excellence in Annual History Award at the Field Operating Agency/Direct Reporting Unit level. The winner is selected based on a board assessment of accuracy, objectivity, comprehensiveness, consistency, balance, analysis, clarity and selection of supporting documents.


“Capturing the incredible performance of our command in an annual history report is no small feat,” wrote AFOSI Commander, Brig. Gen. Keith M. Givens in an enterprise-wide email. “Our Command Historian, Dr. Deborah Kidwell, has done an outstanding job.”


The award bears Warren Trest’s name who compiled a distinguished 34-year career as an Air Force historian. During the Southeast Asia conflict he authored several studies in the Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations reports and played a key role in establishing and conducting the Corona Harvest project in 1966 to evaluate the use of air power in Southeast Asia. Trest served as the Command Historian of two major commands and later as the Senior Historian at the Office of Air Force History and the Historical Research Agency. He retired in 1986.    


“Mr. Trest was a tireless champion of the idea that history was of great practical value to the Air Force, not only in showcasing its proud heritage but in enhancing combat capability by preserving valuable historical lessons and precedents. Dr. Kidwell continues in this fine tradition,” wrote Walter Grudzinskas, Air Force History and Museums director in announcing the award.


Kidwell is a self-proclaimed “history junkie,” who values the significance of the Trest recognition.


“The Trest Award was particularly special to me because he was a scholar of the Vietnamese conflict, producing several works of the period we still rely on today,” she said. “He laid the groundwork for others to follow.”


Kidwell became a professional historian in 2001 at the University of Kansas as a graduate student and teaching assistant.


“It wasn’t my first career,” she said, but I wanted to show my children they could do anything they set their mind to and follow their passions.”


The Oklahoma native then taught at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College for five years before becoming an Air Force Historian in 2009, initially assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.


“I’m a military historian because the point where nations and individuals decide everything else has failed, and they must defend themselves, protect others, or prevent an even bigger disaster by force, defines the absolute essence of our humanity,” Kidwell said. “It cuts to the core of everything we are and have on the line, and that interests me!”


Since joining OSI in 2012 Kidwell has written seven OSI histories, chronicling the years 2009-2015.


“I look forward to many more years of telling the story of OSI’s people accomplishing the mission, she said. “The command is very generous allowing me to visit field units each year. The history is greatly enhanced by watching OSI in action and speaking to the special agents and professional staff conducting the mission first hand.”


Kidwell cites OSI as a learning organization that appreciates and uses its history.


“One example is the tool box project that builds on past tactics and techniques to suggest possible avenues of success in future investigations and operations,” she said. “Our Heritage Day activities during graduation exercises (at the Air Force Special Investigations Academy) invite retired agents to share knowledge and insights gained over many years of experience. There is a continuity – a passing of the torch – that’s impressive!”


When asked what makes recording OSI history unique Kidwell said, “OSI has fantastic people conducting a variety of activities along six operational lines. Agents have to couple great skills with creativity – there is no playbook for all the things we do. The agents, analysts and support staff are a team.”


Kidwell is gratified that her work is judged by her counterparts.


“Knowing one’s peers decided OSI’s history is a worthy product is fantastic,” she said. “It’s cool that my training, experience and effort came together to be recognized.”


“Her commitment and achievement provide an example worthy of emulation throughout the Air Force,” Grudzinskas wrote.