Proud to have served

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Orcutt
  • 509th Bomb Wing command chief
This article has been the hardest for me to write since it will be my last as an active duty member. As I wind down my career after 29-plus years in service, I started to think about why I chose to stay so long in the Air Force.

When people ask me that question, my answer is normally "because I love it, and since I am going to continue to work after this career, why not stay?!" But it was just the other day as I was coming into work and Airman 1st Class Mickell Paris greeted me at the gate that I finally was able to clarify in my mind - why 29 years?

The reason is simple, only one word ... people - I stayed because of the men and women I have had the pleasure to serve with.

The people I am referring to in the beginning of my career were my supervisors and superiors who took a "less than disciplined" Airman and turned her around. For example, when I bounced a check the captain in the comptroller office where I worked showed me how to balance my checkbook.

When I decided it was OK to show up late for work if I came in on time for the previous two weeks it was my supervisor who pointed out the error of my ways --needless to say, I required a lot of help in the first years of service.

By all rights I had chosen a career path that was leading to early discharge, but my supervision took care of me and gave me a great example to follow as I moved up in rank.

At about year seven, I finally transitioned from being just a worker in the Air Force to an owner. What I mean by that is I became one of "them" or the "they" that our Airmen talk about.

There is a tremendous difference between workers and owners. Workers check the clock giving the company only what it paid for. Workers don't care about the big picture there is a very singular focus; whereas, the owner of a company is invested.

When the company performs badly the owner loses. An owner only hires the best and only keeps the best. For me, I changed my way of thinking about the Air Force during NCO leadership school, now known as Airman leadership school.

It was then that I realized I was becoming responsible for the people who came after me and I cared about who we keep or let go. I made it a priority to do my very best to train and help develop the best Airmen I could and it was the Airmen, my subordinates, that kept me in the Air Force.

There is no greater feeling in the world than to watch a young Airman full of energy succeed, or an Airman who is struggling finally get it together. While personal successes are wonderful, for me it's the success of others that kept me motivated and made me a better NCO.

And while it has been the people that kept me in the service for these last 29 years it is also the people who make it easy for me to leave - because I know our nation is in good hands.

When I first got to Whiteman, I was reviewing a welcome letter that Chief Master Sgt. Keith Cobb, the previous command chief, had sent out to all visiting chiefs and the basic message of the note was while the B-2 is a great jet it was the spirit of the men and women assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing that makes Whiteman special.

Chief Cobb was spot on then and it still holds true today. The enthusiasm and professionalism of our Airman is uncanny. Your record of success from staff assistant visits, joint nuclear surety inspections and conventional operational readiness inspections are the best in command, and in my mind, the best in the Air Force.

You have seen 8th Air Force, Air Combat Command and Air Force level wins in almost all functional disciplines and you have done your part for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Our Airmen are better equipped, more knowledgeable and thoroughly prepared when called upon. This is true for whatever the mission is at hand and I don't see this changing anytime soon, and the main reason is you won't let it.

You won't let our Air Force be anything less than the best in the world because our freedom as a nation would be in jeopardy and that just isn't going to happen on your watch. I am an American Airman ... it has been an honor to have served with you.