Today marks the end of an era at Columbus Air Force Base. When today’s edition of Silver Wings, a newspaper devoted to those who work and train at the base, rolled off The Dispatch’s press around 7 A.M. today, it marked the publication’s last regular print edition (a special print edition will be published as part of CAFB’s annual anniversary celebration in September).
A base newspaper has been around almost as long as the base itself, beginning publication under the title of Alert Signal in 1949, eight years after CAFB was built. It was renamed Silver Wings in 1983. For 73 years, print editions informed and educated Air Force personnel and the pilots who train there, everything from celebrating the achievements of the base, sharing its history and informing base personnel of activities and opportunities available on the base and outside its gates. Additionally, it was mailed to a couple hundred citizens throughout the Golden Triangle area.
From the inception of Silver Wings until today, the newspaper has played an important role and will continue to do so even after the print edition ends. Silver Wings will become a digital only publication, so it will continue to provide useful information to base personnel.
As one of the last few print newspapers devoted exclusively to Air Force bases, Silver Wings has become instantly recognizable for its connection to CAFB.
Sonic Johnson, CAFB’s director of public affairs for 14 years, long advocated for keeping a print edition and supervised the production of the newspaper until his retirement in 2019. He noted Silver Wings was well-known even beyond the gates of CAFB.
“Back when we had a lot of people deploying from the base, during that time we would mail Silver Wings to all of the people that were deployed,” Johnson said. “A lot of them came back and said, ‘You know I never read the paper when I was at Columbus, but when I had that down there, people who were stationed at Columbus recognized it and said, hey, you’re with Columbus.’ It increased their peer group of meeting people by their deployment.”
We understand the transition from print to digital, a trend that has been growing for the past two decades. Print editions are costly and time-consuming whereas digital publications can often deliver news in a more timely manner.
Even so, we here at The Dispatch are sad to see the end of the print edition of Silver Wings.
For more than 40 years, The Dispatch printed Silver Wings. More than a decade ago, The Dispatch began designing and composing the paper as well, and also helped in securing advertising, which strengthened the relationship between base personnel with local businesses and services.
No one at The Dispatch worked more closely with CAFB’s editors than Tina Perry, our long-term pre-press manager. She has been involved in some capacity with Silver Wings since the late 80s.
Perry has worked with many Silver Wings editorial teams, doing everything from training Air Force staff on pagination software in the 1990s to now paginating the entire paper. She said the end of the print edition is bittersweet.
“I’ve enjoyed working with them in the Public Affairs office,” Perry said. “I really liked getting to know everyone I’ve worked with at the base.”
It may have been a serious enterprise, but it also produced some fun memories, which Perry said included working with a Silver Wings editor by the name of Charles Dickens.
It has been The Dispatch’s honor and privilege to partner with the base in this effort over all these years.
Thankfully that partnership is not over. Our management and CAFB staff are working on ways to get base news in the pages of The Dispatch on a regular basis. Additionally, our websites will link to each other.
Silver Wings has represented a base-community connection. These new news-sharing plans will strengthen, rather than break that connection.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.