Ask the Chief, times two


It’s been said by many that “marriage is hard work,” but when you’ve got the right pair anything is possible.

Chief Master Sergeant Rochelle Hemingway, 56th Medical Operations Squadron Superintendent, and Chief Master Sergeant Dominic Hemingway, 56th Maintenance Group Superintendent, are on opposite ends of the flightline at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., but they know the secret to success at work and at home.

Between the two chiefs they have more than 56 years in the Air Force, nine deployments, 10 different bases, one resilient little boy, 16 stripes and they’ve faced plenty of bumps in the road, but through it all they kept going.

Rochelle reminds us that it wasn’t always smooth sailing. There came a time when Rochelle was a First Sergeant and the next rank, Senior Master Sgt., didn’t seem to be coming, causing her to reevaluate what was important. 

“It’s harder to be an all-star against a whole tier of people who are all-stars,” said Dominic.

“I thought I was doing enough to get promoted, but I had to step back and realize there was a bigger picture and that if I continued to work hard, eventually I would be recognized for my efforts,” said Rochelle.

When she made the decision to transition back to her career field, she wished she had taken a bit of advice when it was offered.

“A chief told me to maintain my career field certifications and I didn’t do it.  It was challenging and I had to commute to the opposite side of Virginia for a 3-week course to get recertified,” said Rochelle.  “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know from being away from my career field.”

For Dominic, Senior Master Sgt., but it took just as much hard work to get there and he did it with his family cheering him on.

When asked by others why his wife is at every awards ceremony and vice versa, Dominic says, “Because great people are around great people, and they go on to become even greater people when it’s their time.”

Dominic’s time came when he found out he made it to the top one percent of the enlisted force.

“When he made chief, my Dad who served 23 years in the Air Force called up and I swear he had a mini heart attack.  He had party after party after party,” said Rochelle. 

“I was so proud of him too.  There’ve been times when he thought he was done for one reason or another, but when he made it, it just showed that all of that hard work paid off and you can do anything when you set your mind to,” Rochelle added.

When it was Rochelle’s time and it was announced that she made Chief, her husband says he was ecstatic and her Dad was there cheering on the family again.

“I don’t know who was more excited, but I can tell you who enjoyed it more than both of us. Her Dad was on the phone again and kept saying “Two chiefs! Two chiefs!” Dominic added with a smile.

So how did they get there and how do they keep it all together?

Rochelle says sometimes it feels like you’re spinning your wheels and not doing anything. You have to remember to do what the Air Force asks you to do.

“Take care of your people.  You can’t go out thinking if I follow this path then this will happen.  You got to keep taking care of the people and forget about yourself sometimes,” added Dominic.

Even after making it to chief, they say the work is never done.

“It’s never the end. That’s the best thing,” said Dominic. “Not only are we active duty chiefs, we’ll retire and still be able to impact the military community and the civilian community.”

To those in need of an extra push, Rochelle enjoys motivating them.

“Airmen get stuck somewhere in their lifecycle of the Air Force and I always go back and ask them why they came into the Air Force,” said Rochelle. “Why did you raise your hand? Find some way to get back to that and stay positive.  There is nothing like a negative mind.  It will eat away at you.”

They also agree that creating good habits and finding a mentor in someone who has been there before and made it through will help on the path to success.

As for life at home, Dominic says it’s all about communication.

“We’re not going to agree on everything,” said Dominic.  “But we’re going to sit down and discuss things because I may know some information you don’t.  We don’t agree on everything, but we communicate and it works” 

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. We both have idiosyncrasies and things that we do that probably bug us every day, but that’s small,” said Rochelle. “I think sometimes people get fixated on that and blow it way out of proportion.”

Regardless of their career fields, they stand together in their duty to their Airmen.

“We both respect the fact that she’s a chief in the Medical Group and I’m a chief in the Maintenance Group, but to me there’s no difference,” said Dominic. “She doesn’t go around telling me what to do and I don’t tell her what to do.  I love being able to lead my men and women and the Air Force, but they’re all ours regardless of their career.”

“There are some challenges, but I don’t let that stop me from doing what I do and serving in this capacity,” said Rochelle. “This is an honor. I never would’ve imagined that me or him, or both of us would be serving as Chief at the same time.  It just happened.”

So what’s next for the dynamic duo? Rochelle is off to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, where she’ll become the Command Chief. Dominic is staying here until his retirement this fall and adding the title of “Doctor” to his name when he completes his PhD this summer in Management, Leadership and Organizational Change. 

Although the next step means leaving Luke, it will always hold a special place in their hearts.

“Working with Fighter Country Partnership, the Community Initiatives Team, and the men and women of the 56th Fighter Wing as well as the local community have been my favorite part of this assignment,” said Dominic. “I’ve been to ten different bases and this is by far the best community relationship I’ve ever seen.”

Rochelle added that It provides a lot of opportunity to the Airmen and their families because of the community’s kindness and generosity. 

As for her next assignment, she said she’s excited and nervous.

“I want to do well and I want to represent our family and make our family proud,” said Rochelle.