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Chief's Corner - week of May 15

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Old School

This is my last Chief's Corner article. My last day on active duty is May 31, and I will retire with 30 years and seven days of service. During those years, I have seen many changes and not all of them lasted long--Total Quality Management, officer rank on service coat sleeves, and velcro name patches on battle dress uniforms to name a few. One change that has lasted and made a positive impact is the desktop computer. My first NCO in charge, who joined the military in 1964, thought he did the shop a favor by buying an IBM Selectric III typewriter with auto-correction instead of a Zenith 248 computer with a 20 MB hard drive. We thought he was "old school."

I have been told I use "old school" ways. I do not have a problem with that because "old school" ways helped build the greatest Air Force in world history. My first impression of the Air Force was from my military training instructor who was a Vietnam veteran. During my first 10 years of service, all the chief master sergeants and commanders assigned to my units were Vietnam veterans. At my first unit, an enlisted member of our group was assigned to Travis Air Force Base, California, during the race riots in 1971. In 1986, I worked in the base communications security office. The custodian was Chief Master Sgt. John Staples. He joined the Air Force in 1954 and retired in 1987 after 33 years of active duty service.

Times have definitely changed since I served alongside these folks. When I joined in 1984, there were 597,125 people on active duty in the Air Force, today there are only 329,460 people authorized. During my years of service, the manning level peaked in 1987 with 607,035 members. When I came in, single technical sergeants and below had to live in the dorms with two people per room and everyone shared a hallway bathroom. During exercises and inspections, all military members worked 12-hour shifts around the clock, even if their work center was not a participant.

I remember Airmen used to have to buff floors, pick up cigarette butts, mow grass, place hoses and sprinklers to water the grass, shovel snow and clean windows. We also did many things via self-help projects like laying sod, planting flowers, constructing partition walls, painting, installing brick pavers, replacing ceiling tiles, and installing conduit. Another thing I remember is that Airmen did not go into the commander's area (front office) unless they had an appointment. Also, in an effort to save money, we were required to research suitable substitutes, using microfiche, before we were authorized to order replacement parts for equipment.

I also remember that some things "went away" like paychecks received in the mail, encryption equipment the size of refrigerators, senior NCO dorms at stateside bases, "Buck" Sergeants, having beer at almost every organizational function, keg parties on pay day weekends and smoking in the office. Some things transformed like Air Force Regulations to Air Force Instructions and Airmen performance reports to enlisted performance reports. Some things came like physical training uniforms, performance feedback forms, Airman's Creed and political correctness.

Uniforms have also changed during my 30-year military career. I have worn fatigues, BDUs, Airman Battle Uniforms and two different styles of blue uniforms. I also wore organizational baseball style caps, which were somewhat color-coded. Communications organizations wore blue caps.

So as I move on, I recommend you set personal and career goals, develop progress plans, adjust your plans as necessary, work hard to achieve your goals and never sell yourself short. We are all professionals, we must take pride in what we do, and we must have the dedication to get the job done right the first time, on time. Remember that teamwork is the key to mission success.

I will miss the Air Force and I believe it may take some time for me to feel comfortable not putting on the uniform every day. I wish all of you the best of luck as you continue through your Air Force careers. Take care.
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