A Legacy of Service
By Technical Sergeant Michael McGhee, 132nd Fighter Wing
/ Published December 18, 2014
Iowa Air National Guard, Des Moines, Iowa -- Returning from school this past month I was informed that ten retirements were scheduled for the month of December. Five of the ceremonies were held during December drill. While working at the events over the weekend there was an abundance of emotion: joy, happiness, excitement, and ultimately sadness. I thought about the sacrifice, dedication of service, and commitment these individuals had to the Air Force and the 132nd Fighter Wing. Doing some quick calculation, the December retirees have amassed more than 307 years of service. But the statistic I found most shocking was three of the top five members on base with the highest years of service are now retired. The loss of these members including all who have left this past calendar year has will be felt in both a leadership and mentoring roles. In the month of December I spoke to some of the retirees moving on to the 132nd Fighter Wing Silver Squadron and the following is a composition of achievements, changes through the years, and a few simple words of wisdom.
Most of these members have seen some major changes during their career at the 132nd Fighter Wing but one aspect on streamlining a process was told by Senior Master Sergeant Ricky Gates. He pointed out when he returned to the engine shop as a Superintendent the return to service cycle of an engine had changed dramatically. The average turnaround time to change an engine core was approximately two-and-a-half months. This cycle decreased by nearly a month as SMSgt Gates implemented changes within the process model.
Covering the retirement ceremony of Chief Master Sergeant Charles Hoops there was a moment that spoke louder than any words. When Chief Hoops began to thank members of his family, he pointed out the absence of his father. As he was overcome by the moment, there was silence, the type of silence from all attendees that illuminates commitment, dedication, and friendship. Chief Hoops then composed himself and finished the speech.
Moving on to honor Senior Master Sergeant David Titus recalls hosting a riggers conference back in 1990 and gave letters of appreciation along with a parachute pin to every attendee who had a parachute deploy in the line of duty. The reason behind giving the awards was he wanted every rigger to receive the proper and formal recognition that ultimately saved lives.
When I speak of dedication, Senior Master Sergeant Zita Lovell comes to mind. She grew up in a family of seven brothers and two sisters with a father who owned a service station. SMSgt Lovell indicated that she gravitated more to her brothers with a mechanical inkling even before she put on the uniform to work on jets. She also leaves the unit with over 38 years of service, the highest by any active guardsman at the 132nd Fighter Wing.
Chief Master Sergeant Russell Starmer recalls one of his proudest moments with family in mind. But it didn't happen stateside, it was during a 2002 deployment in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Working side-by-side with his brother, now retired, Command Chief Master Sergeant Wendell Starmer as they faced the day-to-day challenges together.
These are just some of the stories I have encountered, there are many more. Each of these members exemplifies the core values of: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. Jackie Robinson once said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. " As the retirees drive off the base one last time they should hold their heads high knowing the personal sacrifice given to it's members and the mission of the 132nd Fighter Wing.