KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Senior Master Sgt. Charles Moore, 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent, has seen his own personal share of the history of the 403rd Wing during his 33 years of military service at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
“The 403rd Wing has always been in transition,” said Moore adding, “It’s never been the ‘same old 403rd’ to me.”
For a man who spent his entire military career at Keesler AFB, except for training or deployments (he had three overseas and over 200 storm deployments), Moore finds the organization never really stands still.
“When I got here in 1986, we were the 815th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the 920th Weather Reconnaissance Group, and at that time the 403rd Rescue and Weather Reconnaissance Wing,” Moore said.
Moore’s extensive knowledge of the aircraft is apparent when he said that the proudest moment was during the earliest part of his career, when he was among those who converted eight of the 18 WC-130s into tactical aircraft in 1987.
As these C-130s were being converted, the Wing was re-designated to the 403rd Tactical Airlift Wing.
Although he began as a traditional Reserve Airman, the extra effort Moore invested in developing his C-130 aircraft mechanic skills paid off for him when he was offered a full-time job at Keesler AFB in 1987. He has been here ever since.
Due to his years working at Keesler AFB, Moore can recall from personal memories many milestones in in the 403rd Wing’s military history.
In December 1989, the unit supported Operation Just Cause in Panama; after the Iraqi invasion the 403rd Wing supported Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, with aircraft. Some of the aircraft were converted from the weather configuration of the C-130 Super E and H models to a tactical configuration.
While Moore was busy with these aircraft conversions, the Wing was again re-designated and in 1992 became the 403rd Airlift Wing, but that only lasted two years until the most current designation of the 403rd Wing.
“We received the first C-130J in the Department of Defense inventory. Prior to that, we had an Operational Test and Experiment (OTNE) where we were the test bed for the C-130J operations. That’s what made it great due to fact that it’s always a new challenge,” he said.
Approaching the age of 60, Moore still easily climbs up on a mobile flight line platform to open up the casing of a C-130 aircraft engine. He credits many years in aviation maintenance at Keesler AFB to being a “late bloomer.”
“I did not enlist until I was 26 years old, but I had a great desire to be a C-130 mechanic,” he said. Moore had some college and had a few jobs but he wanted something more solid when he joined the Air Force Reserve.
Among the many coworkers Moore has had over his career is Senior Master Sgt. James Steven Dahl. He recalls his first encounter with Moore as an ‘ear shattering’ moment as Dahl was towing an aircraft.
“Charlie was screaming at me for walking between the prop marks which is a hazard zone here,” he recalls with a smile.
Despite that hot button start, Dahl says, “I got to know him not only as a mentor on the job, but also as a friend outside of work,” over their 21 years at Keesler AFB, working side-by-side.
Moore’s approach of selflessness includes being a committed mentor who pays back the benefits he received from those who mentored him in his military career.
“I had leaders who helped me get this far, therefore, I must mirror that when I have trainees assigned to me,” he said. “It’s up to me to influence and inspire them.”
His mentoring by example also led to a new generation of the Moore family proudly serving in the military.
“I raised my son in the 403rd Wing and based on what he experienced with all of my coworkers as he grew up, my son chose to become an active-duty Airman,” Moore said.
His son, Airman 1st Class Charles Sterling Moore agrees.
“It’s was what I was exposed to when I was young,” said the Airman 1st Class explaining how seeing his father’s technical dedication inspired his own military pathway. “That really lit the fire for me to join the Air Force."
Both father and son attended college but decided on military careers at about the same age.
“Like him, I was in college for two years and it felt like life was not moving fast enough for me, said Airman 1st Class Moore.
“So, I stepped up to open the Air Force door of opportunities.”
When asked which of his father’s traits made the biggest impression on him, Airman 1st Class Moore said, “Being humble and patient. Waiting for your spot to shine. My father showed me that you have to follow … before you can lead.”
Moore has both followed and led over his military career. Just before the ceremony honoring Moore began, his friend Dahl recalled, “You would not know that he’s retiring because he has not let up on his tenacity for doing things the right way.”
What’s next for Moore? The theme of mentorship will continue for Moore during his next opportunities, which include recruiting for the aviation maintenance career field. However, he also may become a substitute public school teacher to be a positive male role model for young students.
The person who received life-long mentorship from Moore, his son, returned to witness the recognition his father received from over 200 family and friends gathered in the fuel cell hangar at Keesler AFB, March 9 during the retirement ceremony.
When he finishes his last work day on April 1 he will no longer directly witness the future changes at Keesler AFB. However, Charles Moore will still have seen his own personal share of the 403rd Wing history and his contributions to that legacy.