TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – He’s always been a maintainer, through and through. From C-5s and C-141s to C-17s and KC-10s, Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White, Jr., has made his home away from home the Air Force flightline.
Moving up through the ranks of the maintenance group wrench-turners, White never thought in a million years he would have the opportunity to go beyond the job of a chief master sergeant as an aircraft maintenance squadron superintendent. But looking back, the Palm Springs, Calif., native admitted, if Airmen want to take on newer or challenging opportunities, they would have to “get comfortable getting uncomfortable.”
“I absolutely never thought I would get the chance to do something like this,” said White. “There’s nothing special about me, or more deserving about me, than the next person. I think what it takes is, throughout your career, you have to have people pushing for you and pulling for you. All the men and women I’ve worked with have supported me, and they deserve just as much credit for this. When it’s all said and done, I’m just a tool that continues to carry on the torch.”
Indeed, the torch White now carries takes him far from the sights, sounds and smells of the flightline to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing’s command section, where he will soon add the star in between the chevrons of his chief stripes, becoming the wing’s command chief.
Since 1989, White has always worked on the flightline, and always as an Air Force Reservist. In 1990, and later in 2003, White deployed in support of Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, respectively. But like all things, change has come for White, and with that change, experience carries onward.
“If I look at Travis, being the largest associate wing in the Air Force, and the 452nd (AMW) being the largest stand-alone wing in AFRC, I think what I am able to do is bring my Travis experience, working side-by-side with the active duty and encompassing that into the 452nd,” explained White, who identified what experience he was bringing to his new job. “I think I bring a nice mixture of combining the two.”
White also said it was “leadership and passion” for the uniform that has sustained him.
“Every day I put that uniform on, I’m still just as proud and passionate since the first day I put it on. If you still have those desires, then you’re on the right track. If you ever lose those passions, it might be time for you to step aside and let the next person step up.”
With the departure of Chief Master Sgt. Ericka Kelly to become the 349th AMW’s command chief, it was time for Col. Russell Muncy to select “the next person” to “step up,” giving the 452nd AMW’s enlisted corps a voice on their matters. After a thorough review process, Muncy said he chose White because “He brings the right background and demeanor to the position.”
“In filling the 452d AMW Command Chief position behind Chief Master Sgt. Kelly, Chief Master Sgt. White will have significant shoes to fill’” said Muncy. “His career experience in both the military and the civilian sectors have prepared him well though, and I have no doubt that he will excel. He will be an outstanding representative for the airmen of the 452d AMW!”
As White prepares to take on his new role at March Air Reserve Base, his philosophy on reviewing wing programs and procedures is simple: “I don’t believe in fixing something that isn’t broken.
“I think it’s important you get to see what works and the processes they have in place,” White admitted. “It’s important for me to get (to the 452nd AMW) and look at and learn their processes, comparing them to my experiences and how they can be applied to the 452nd. I know they have great leaders there on both the enlisted and officer side of the house. Hopefully I can also reach out to other command chiefs and see what they’re doing differently and see what can be applied to the 452nd.”
The chief, who fills his weekdays with policing the streets of Coachella, Calif., as a Riverside County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, said Reservists have new and challenging times ahead of them. These include the potential for post-combat force realignments, and a slow return to an Air Force Reserve without continuous combat deployments, not seen since September 2001.
“For the young Airmen, I think back to 1990 during the first Gulf War. If you look at many of our Airmen in the Air Force Reserve today, the only thing they’ve known in their career has been us at war during the last decade. It will be a transition. We’ll have to remain focused; money is always an issue. But as we transition from being a country at war to a drawdown, we can’t lose focus … we have to remain ready because the threats are still out there. We owe it to our country and our fellow uniformed members.”