By Staff Sgt. Rob Hazelett, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 29, 2007
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
The rank of chief master sergeant was authorized through the Military Pay Act of 1958, along with senior master sergeant, to prevent career stagnation and open up promotional opportunities.Chief to all Airmen
Moreover, in November 1998, the position of command chief master sergeant, formerly titled senior enlisted advisor, was created to serve as senior advisors to commanders at wing, numbered air force, field operating agency and major command levels.
When Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Orcutt, 509th Bomb Wing command chief, joined the Air Force under the delayed enlisted program in 1977, she had little idea she was embarking on a career that would encapsulate both of the aforementioned roles.
Time comes to pass
As 29-years have passed and her retirement approaches June 29, the Miami, Fla., native has had responsibilities such as advising the 509th Bomb Wing commander and senior staff on matters affecting health, morale and welfare of more than 3,300 enlisted personnel.
She is proud to be among only one percent of the Air Force enlisted force who holds the rank of chief master sergeant.
"When I joined, I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself," she said. "Now as I look back on my career, it feels like I just started.
"My job here is the most fulfilling I've had," she added. "For me to be at the wing level and help affect change for the entire installation, with the boss' support, and to be able to advise him and have him have ownership of those things is fulfilling. There just isn't anything better."
Along the way, Chief Orcutt has been stationed at eight Air Force bases and has served as a command chief master sergeant, at the tenet level, at Maxwell AFB Gunter Annex, Ala. She became a wing command chief when she came to Whiteman in June 2004.
"I think Chief Orcutt's description, 'ownership,' is the primary characteristic that enabled her success and enables the success of any great Airman in our Air Force," said Brig. Gen. Greg Biscone, 509th Bomb Wing commander. "She took both professional and personal pride in her actions and her Air Force - she understood early that she was a primary stakeholder.
"None of us can do everything, but the chief knew she could ensure the people and actions that were her responsibility were given her full attention," he added. "She could, and did, make us better. The energy and service she offered to our nation led to a career marked by the theme she professed: honor and distinction. I greatly appreciate all she did for our Air Force, this wing and me. We're stronger because of her."
Since chief master sergeants are expected to serve as mentors for company-grade and field-grade commissioned officers, as well as noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted members, Chief Orcutt has a theme for her Airmen:
"My basic theme for our Airmen is for them to serve with honor and distinction - they're here to fulfill their contracts and the Air Force needs them," she said. "Airmen play a critical part in our mission and need to give us their all. They need to do their jobs, so the men and women in their units who have been filling the gap are able to get rested and ready."
Through her time here, Chief Orcutt will remember helping others achieve their goals. One example is assisting the Tier 2 organization, a committee made up of junior enlisted NCOs.
"When I first got here, the Tier 2 had been asking for an NCO induction for at least two years. I was a proponent for getting them their NCO induction ceremony," she said. "When the rubber meets the road, it's about being able to enhance morale. This keeps people in the Air Force, which is key to being a part of this great institution."
Her effort will not be soon forgotten by the members of the Tier 2 who have appreciated her involvement.
"She has been a tremendous role model for our organization, and has given the Tier 2 her full support and insight, as well as direction on what NCOs' are supposed to be," said Tech. Sgt. Rex Fleming, 509th Maintenance Operations Squadron and Whiteman Tier 2 president. "You could always count on seeing Chief Orcutt around the base. No matter what was going on, she was always there supporting, directing or just having a good time."
Chief Orcutt believes in staying in touch through talking to her troops, and it's apparent she loves the Airmen at Whiteman any time she discusses the direction of the Air Force.
"Our young Airmen are energetic, enthusiastic and excited about what they do. If we could just tap into that energy and continue to drive them in the right direction, it's amazing what we would be able to do," she said. "I've enjoyed being a part of guiding them and helping them see success.
"When you talk to your Airmen, it helps you stay relevant because you'll know what they want and it helps you to be able to work what they need because they're willing to talk to you," she added. "I think it's made me a better command chief and a better parent , because I understood what they wanted."
A peculiar call defined
The avid club bingo enthusiast said she's going to miss everything about Whiteman upon her retirement.
Especially being a part of the mission.
She plans on staying in touch through volunteer efforts at various base organizations, and will continue to meet with the Chiefs' group and Air Force Sergeants Association.
"Chief brings a positive outlook to almost every situation, and she really cared about the Airmen," said Master Sgt. Dana Fraher, 509th Bomb Wing. "The one thing I'll remember about Chief Orcutt is her calling out 'Whootie-whoo.'"
Chief Orcutt doesn't mind discussing the origin of the 'whootie-whoo.' It is what she uses as her "hello" and has become her familiar refrain at commander's calls and squadron rallies.
It began when she sponsored Chief Master Sgt. Debra Garza, who was in security forces, at Edwards Air Force Base, she said. "I've known since we were senior master sergeants and we would go everywhere together.
"One day we're going along and I said something, which she replies, 'well, whootie-whoo,'" Chief Orcutt said. "Well, I just had to know what the 'whootie-whoo' meant, so I asked."
Chief Garza explained in Singapore their mission was night interdiction and they had adopted the owl as their mascot. "And what do owls do, but 'whootie-whoo?'" Chief Garza quantified.
Chief Orcutt said it just fit with who she has become. "It's just not my personality to be a 'hooah' person," she said.
Of course, there are still times for 'hooah,' she said. "For example, when I talked to a group of basic training people, and 800 sets of eyes were on me; I just don't think a 'whootie-whoo' would have worked."
Reflections from the top
For now, Chief Orcutt plans to stay in the area for the next two years with her husband of 19 years, John Orcutt, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, and their three daughters; Samantha, 18, Danielle, 16, and Taylor Mae, 10.
Chief acknowledges that she couldn't have accomplished her Air Force career without her family's support.
"I'd like to thank them for being patient - I couldn't have done this job and do it successfully unless I had the backing of my family," she said. "They have always been very supportive, even though I've missed things they would have liked me to do for them."
Likewise, her husband expressed similar sentiments toward his wife's achievements.
"As I reflect on her career, two things are certain: there was never a challenge too large or small and her Airmen always came first," Mr. Orcutt said. "In the years we've been married, I have seen her grow into an outstanding NCO, wife and mother.
"The sign of a good leader is represented by the people you bring up through the ranks," he added. "As long as I can remember, she has helped in their advancement in the military and personal life. I'm as impressed, and love her as much, as when we first met - she's my hero."
As Chief Master Sgt. Brian Hornback prepares to take over as the next 509th BW command chief, Chief Orcutt's career has come full circle.
Chief Orcutt is proud of her service and her career progression is synonymous with destiny.
In talking about the Missouri weather, which she adores, her philosophy of the environment and culture was symbolic in a time of change.
"I love the culture and change of seasons here. Every time we have a new season, Mother Nature provides us the opportunity to just regroup and reassess," she said. "When you have a change of season, it just seems there are always possibilities. It's a wonderful place to be."