Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Howard
355th Fighter Wing Command Chief
Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Howard waves to an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. (Courtesy photo) Hi-res
7/24/2012 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- On Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. in the Base Theater, I will retire from the United States Air Force after 30 years and 2 months of active duty service. It is a moment of reflection and pride. Serving the interests of our nation has given me many fantastic opportunities and personal successes. But as my retirement date looms, I want to share with you what I am most proud of.
I started my career earning honor graduate recognition from Basic Military Training, but I am not most proud of that.
I have been a distinguished or honor graduate at every level of professional military education and every technical training course I attended, but I am not most proud of that.
I was my wing's First Sergeant of the Year in 2003 and named one of Southern Arizona's 25 Most Influential African Americans earlier this year, but I am not most proud of that.
Rather, I am most proud of the uniform I've been fortunate enough to wear for the last 30 years and what it represents: discipline, sacrifice, courage, commitment and respect. Our nation's Airmen are Americans of the highest order. Their professionalism and dedication is eye watering and it will be difficult to put my uniform away and walk away for the final time.
I am most proud of my 15 years as a USAF first sergeant, serving the needs of our Airmen in any way I was able to. I was a teacher, coach, cheerleader, bodyguard, mentor, counselor, defender, disciplinarian, father, big brother or whatever role my Airmen needed me to assume so that they were free to accomplish the mission.
I am most proud of being a member of the Desert Lightning Team and am inspired by your collective commitment to integrity, service and excellence. Serving the DLT has been the most rewarding tour of my military career. It is a team that virtually never loses. If we fall short of our own expectations, the DLT has consistently reloaded and came back even stronger.
I am a lucky man. Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have had noble leaders, distinguished peers and talented subordinates. They, along with my wife Sarah and my children, combined with the grace of Almighty God, have made my Air Force journey a bona fide life highlight.
I will have a few more words at my retirement ceremony, but realizing that not everyone will be able to attend, let me leave you with a quote from my favorite football coach and leader, the great Vince Lombardi.
"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."
I depart with a feeling of victory because of you, my fellow Airmen. I depart but will bring true treasure with me - friends, relationships, mementos, and memories that will sustain me for life. Serving with you has been a blessing. My family and I, along with hundreds of millions of others, sleep soundly and safer because of you. I will take off my uniform next week, but I will always be an Airman. I wish you all of God's blessings and good hunting.
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