Inspired command chief motivates others

Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Drinkard, 509th Bomb Wing command chief

Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Drinkard, 509th Bomb Wing command chief

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- If you have not yet gotten a chance to spend time with our new command chief as he zig zags around base meeting Airmen, brace yourself.

Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Drinkard, 509th Bomb Wing command chief, is a very passionate, extremely energetic, and highly motivated leader who loves to get shoulder-to-shoulder with the Airmen while they provide strategic deterrence, global power, and combat support.

"Everything I do will fall into three caveats," Drinkard said. "To ensure the 509th Bomb Wing is highly trained, highly motivated and highly disciplined, all while developing future leaders and taking care of Airmen and their families."

Drinkard has been in the military for 19 years. He made the Chief rank at his 15- year mark and assumed responsibilities as our Command Chief on June 16, 2014.

"I never really realized I wanted to become a command chief," Drinkard said. "It was never a want or aspiration. I just focused on my Airmen and the job in front of me. I truly believe we are always where we are supposed to be."

The Chief grew up in the shadow of the B-52H Stratofortress in Bossier City, La. The patriotism the city had drew him in.

"I was exposed to the Air Force at a young age and I wanted to be part of it," Drinkard said. "My grandfather was a retired air policeman and it inspired me to join the Air Force."

Drinkard would scoot up his chair lending an ear to his grandfather's vivid memories of descriptive stories about his time around the world.

"He would tell me stories of the air police deployments when he would forward deploy with the SAC bomber fleet," he said. "I am extremely proud that I too am an American Airman who continues to stand watch to defend freedom like so many before me."

"I surprised myself," Drinkard continued. "I never thought I would be here."

Drinkard came in as an Airman Basic. He was on the job with nothing on his sleeve for four months.

"This particular moment in my life was a proud and humble experience," he said. At that time, I was thirsty for something, at least one chevron. It is an essential symbol of the enlisted force and I didn't have one at all. I suppose it was a pride thing."

He reminisces looking at his mosquito wings [Airman Chevron] and thought they were huge.

"It looked so much bigger than what was there before, which was nothing," Drinkard said. "To this day that promotion was the most important promotion to me because it meant I was an Airman. That single chevron meant I was on my way to bigger and better things."

Drinkard speaks highly of his first supervisor, as he feels he made him the Airman he is today.

"Someone truly cared for me and where my career was going," Drinkard said. "If I didn't have Tech. Sgt. Robert Springs, I would not even be close to where I am right now. I am here not because of me, but because of other's belief and faith in my leadership potential; they lit a fire in me that still burns bright."

Every Airman has the ability to inspire someone to accomplish something they did not think was possible, Drinkard added.

"I met Shawn when he was assigned to my flight as an Airman Basic, straight out of technical school," said Robert Spring, Drinkard's first supervisor. "Since I have known him, he has always been motivated."

When he completed training to earn his first certification, Drinkard wanted to start on his next certification right away.

"With Shawn, there was no sitting around," Spring said. "He always wanted to be productive. He has the what's next attitude."

When Drinkard was an E-2 with only a year in Air Force, he deployed alone without a team or team leader to Saudi Arabia. His first day in country was the Khobar Towers terrorist attack. This first deployment taught Drinkard that every Airman is a leader and each day will present an opportunity to lead; each Airman must be ready when propelled into the fray.

Later on, when Drinkard was an Airman 1st Class, he saw himself as a highly proficient, technical, knowledgeable Senior Airman.

"They [SrA] were it," he said. "Senior Airman was highly respected. When they spoke, you listened. When they did something, you watched. I thought that was the coolest thing. They carried so much weight and I feel that holds true today, we just need to help Senior Airman believe it too."

Every member of Team Whiteman should have goals and aspirations but Drinkard believes our goals should align with the Air Force core values, family responsibilities, and a commitment to develop tomorrow's leaders; when our commitments line up, we hit our professional and personal targets.

Drinkard and his wife, Master Sgt. Sarah Drinkard, 509th Medical Operations Squadron registered dental hygienist, have been married for 13 years. They have three daughters, Shannen, 7, Sidney, 4 and Skylar, 2.

"My family keeps me grounded, especially knowing Sarah somewhat sacrificed her career for mine," Drinkard said. "She could have easily been the Chief in this family."

As their careers evolved, Master Sgt. Drinkard supported Chief and eagerly followed her husband where his career took them; as long as the family remained together.

"My husband has always been motivated and hungry to inspire Airmen and hunt for the next challenge," Sarah said. "We are very competitive and we push each other in everything we do."

With every opportunity to learn, Drinkard is there to sweep it up.

"He has always been dialed in and very self-disciplined," Sarah said. "For each rank, he studied one year before each test date. Even now he is currently enrolled in Air University's 35-week Chief Leadership Course. He volunteered to beta test the course even though he completed the in residence course four years ago. He continues to study and read because he wants to stay on top of everything, not for a promotion, but to be a relevant leader and mentor."

The Chief takes every task and challenge and pours himself into it.

"I am product of every day Airmen who were committed to developing tomorrow's leaders," Drinkard said. "I embraced the core values as my own, took advantage of every opportunity and took a risk when a door cracked opened. I will never forget my humble beginnings as an Airman Basic and will stay the course to be the very best husband, father and American Airman I can possibly be for my family and Team Whiteman."