I will retire from the United States Air Force after 30 years and 26 days of active-duty service at 12:30 p.m. March 15 in the 425th hangar. Preparing for this event has brought to mind many thoughts of reflection and pride.
Serving as an Airman in all enlisted ranks and serving the interests of our nation has given me many fantastic opportunities and personal successes. The people who have no idea what drives me jump to the conclusion that I enlisted and stayed in the Air Force just because of the education, pay, travel, medical and dental benefits, and because of the retirement pay I will get for the rest of my life. All of these things were considerations, but they are not the real reason I re-enlisted as many times as I did. It is really because of the combination of opportunities the Air Force provides each of us from the jobs we have to the relationships we build with the people we work with.
Off-base civilians do not typically get to have the connection that we experience with fellow Airmen. We are guided with simple but pure core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Airmen share a love of country and show great respect to the flag. The Air Force provides the opportunity to serve our country, neighbors and fellow Airmen. I enjoy serving in the U.S. Air Force because of the extraordinary people who serve with me. I specifically find it special to interact with leaders who sincerely believe in taking care of our Airmen and making sure as a team we carry out our mission as professionals.
I have experienced an incredible feeling of being one small part of something so huge and amazing. I swore to protect our nation and defend our way of life. As a chief, I serve to serve my Airmen.
The last few thoughts I want to leave with Luke’s Airmen are: You need to jump on board with leadership and strive to be a part of the team, because the team is greater than the individual. It’s all about having the right attitude because attitude sets the tone for an organization and everyone around you.
In addition, you must understand off-duty and professional military education in this new Air Force are paramount to mission success. Our enlisted core is so professional and our jobs are so technical that each Airman has to have the education and the training to succeed. In many ways, the Air Force is going to have a smaller and more agile force, and that force is going to need the education and the training to accomplish the mission. I will retire confident that younger, brighter, more capable professionals are right behind me. I have great satisfaction knowing the future of the Air Force is secure.
What I’ve discovered in my 30 years in the Air Force is every Airman can truly achieve anything he wants through the Air Force. Airmen should dream big and explore all the great programs the Air Force has to offer. You just may be surprised where you end up at the end of your career.
My challenge is to today’s leaders. I challenge you to take an active interest in your people, find out what their goals and dreams are, and if they don’t know, help your Airmen develop their plans.
Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have had illustrious leaders, distinguished peers and extremely talented subordinates. They, along with my wife Maria and my children have made my Air Force journey a genuine life highlight. I will take off my uniform next week, but I will always be an Airman. I depart but will bring true treasure with me — friends, relationships, mementos, and memories that will sustain me for life. The Air Force gives people like me a chance … the secret is to take advantage of the opportunities.