97th IS builds camaraderie, morale with heritage room

  • Published
  • By Kendra Williams
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

The 97th Intelligence Squadron celebrated the opening of their new heritage room inside Building D with a ribbon cutting ceremony May 26 at Offutt Air Force Base.

The 97th IS worked within one of the 137 facilities lost in the 2019 flood and are working in Building D until their new facility is completed.

“Morale and camaraderie are a struggle with a squadron of our size,” said Tech. Sgt. Billy Johnson, 97th IS section chief of emergency management.  “I remember the times at our old heritage lounge at tenant hall, we would gather there after Friday roll calls or during reenlistment ceremonies. It was a fantastic way to get to know each other and meet teammates from different offices we wouldn’t normally interact with.”

It was a labor of love restoring the heritage room for members of the squadron and provides a sense of normalcy to the unit as they work from a temporary facility.

“When I returned to the 97th IS after being stationed overseas and learning a new language, I returned to a shell of the great squadron I once knew,” said Johnson. “Between relocating to Building D and the occupancy restrictions that came with COVID, morale was at an extreme low point.”

It took a lot of work by a few dedicated members of the 97th IS to get the new heritage room operational, but the result is a heritage room the Airmen are proud of and a semblance of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic time.

“The team worked in their spare time over the last year identifying the location, going through items from the flooded building, and scouring the archives for historic items to be used to decorate the room,” said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Vertner, 97th IS senior enlisted advisor. “Even with minimal guidance and a small budget, a few of our Airmen poured their hearts into our new Shadow Lounge, and recaptured the magic we had in our last heritage lounge while showcasing our squadron’s incredible legacy.”