Museum director: Backbone of Fort D.A. Russell Days

Paula Taylor, Warren ICBM/Heritage Museum director

Paula Taylor, Warren ICBM/Heritage Museum director, poses in a traditional pioneer outfit. Mrs. Taylor has been director of the museum at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., for 15 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Javier Cruz Jr.)

by Airman 1st Class Alex Martinez
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

7/28/2008 – F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. — Once a year, Warren members are able to showcase their mission, land and heritage during an open house.

Fort D.A. Russell Days, which offers a mix of intertwined local history allows visitors to walk casually among U.S. cavalry soldiers, visit with Vietnam veterans and discuss relics on display.

The effort to make this event happen weighs heavily on the base and its volunteers; however, there is one Warren member who works relentlessly until it’s ready.

In fact, she helped conceive the idea and has helped sculpt it into what it has become today.

Paula Taylor, Warren ICBM Heritage Museum director, plans, organizes and helps execute Fort D.A. Russell Days every year. Fourteen years after it’s beginning in 1994, Mrs. Taylor has headed up a team of volunteers to ensure the event is successful.

“This is a very unique open house,” Mrs. Taylor said while dressed in a classic frontier dress and bonnet. “Most bases have a runway and have the ability to host an air show, but due to our challenge of not having aircraft, we have to adjust and attract visitors in other ways.”

Warren is the oldest active base in the Air Force, carrying with it much history, she said. Visitors come to the open house to learn not only about the base, but the history of the local area, especially since Warren and Cheyenne were established on the same day.

In 2007, about 15,000 people attended the open house, increasing attendance by 50 percent from the previous year, and the event earned the 90th Missile Wing an Air Force Space Command level award. Mrs. Taylor was a major part of the event’s success.

“Fort D.A. Russell Days attracts visitors because the event recognizes and supports what Warren troops do to support our freedoms,” Mrs. Taylor said.

Before Fort D.A. Russell Days, Warren would open the gates to the public in conjunction with Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Air Force Thunderbird annual air show here. 1993 was the last year the air show happened over Warren, so it needed a new way to attract visitors for an open house.

Mrs. Taylor and other Warren members began work on the idea of Fort D.A. Russell Days, celebrating Warren’s “Muskets to Missiles” heritage.

With about 400 pioneer, cavalry and U.S. war re-enactors, Mrs. Taylor said she has her hands full coordinating with everyone, and the re-enactors are the volunteers to thank.

“The re-enactors come from miles away, knowing they’re only volunteers, and stay the entire time in order to share information with the visitors,” Mrs. Taylor said. “They spend their own money to travel. We couldn’t host Fort D.A. Russell Days without them.”

Other events during Fort D.A. Russell Days included displays from various on-base groups, historic homes tours, missile mission tours, Air Force band performances, a buffalo burger burn, and booths from Air Force recruiters and the Air National Guard.

“My vision for the event is to expand and grow,” Mrs. Taylor said. “This was the first year we were able to incorporate Vietnam and Korean War displays, and we will only get bigger and better.”

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