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Leaving a legacy

Lt. Col. David Price, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron evaluator navigator, poses with the crew after completing his 'fini' flight with the squadron. After 35 years, both active duty and reserve, Lt. Col. Price will retire having flown in the 403rd Wing for both the tactical missions and storm missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)

Lt. Col. David Price, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron evaluator navigator, poses with the crew after completing his 'fini' flight with the squadron. After 35 years, both active duty and reserve, Lt. Col. Price will retire having flown in the 403rd Wing for both the tactical missions and storm missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)

Lt. Col. David Price, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron evaluator navigator, retires after 35 years of service. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill)

Lt. Col. David Price, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron evaluator navigator, retires after 35 years of service. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Another retirement ceremony. Proof that everything has an expiration date, and no job lasts forever. But…if you exude excellence in all you do; the work you’ve done and how you influence others can last forever.

For newly retired Lt. Col. David Price, an evaluator navigator with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the timeless legacy he leaves is rooted in the contributions to the squadron’s mission and the people he influenced along the way.

“After 35 years, you ask where did it all go,” said Price. ”I look back on it, and I know where it went. Just look around.”

His accomplishments show evidence of time well spent in his career. His first assignment was at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi as an instructor and evaluator. He deployed to the Middle East in 1990, received an Aerial Achievement Medal, and redeployed in 1991.

After six years of active duty service, Price joined the Air Force Reserve and started building his legacy within the 53rd WRS. In his 29 years with the squadron, Price has had 314 hurricane penetrations, deployed with the 815th Airlift Squadron, and flown 8,667 flight hours, said Lt. Col. Dwayne Russell, 53rd WRS commander. 

One of Price’s most significant contributions to the squadron’s mission is his work with the C-130J’s radar.

“Without his efforts, this mission would not be as successful,” said Russell. “The airplane would not function as well as it does, which is thanks to his input and direction.”

The squadron was one of the first to receive the new J model C-130s, and Price played a significant role in testing the plane’s radar, said Lt. Col. John Fox, 53rd WRS chief navigator.

“Radars are made to avoid the weather. But rather than avoid the weather, we go find it,” said Fox.

They need the radar to show a storm’s severity and navigate through it. Price worked with the manufacturer to make improvements and add the necessary features to do the mission.

“He was a big factor in the radar becoming what it is today,” said Fox. “He is definitely leaving his legacy.”

The improvements allowed the “Hurricane Hunters” to fly into storms using the new C-130J successfully. Price has flown into multiple major storms such as Hurricane Jenny, Juliette, Michelle, Ivan, and one of the Gulf Coast’s most memorable, Katrina.

“It doesn’t pay to bring your work home with you,” said Russell. “Unfortunately, working as a hurricane hunter, the weather has followed him home and his family has had to evacuate while he was doing his job.”

Military members know all too well the sacrifices their families make. It’s hard leaving family when duty requires their service even if their family understands.

Price said he had seen firsthand the damage of a hurricane. He knows tracking storms can mean life or death for people like his family. That’s his motivation. It can mean the difference between having the time to evacuate versus a casualty.

It is the dedication to people’s well-being by completing the mission intertwined with his job. That’s why relationships are so vital to him, he said. 

One person who knows this best is his son Tech. Sgt. Brandon Price, an 815th AS loadmaster. His father’s job gave him the opportunity to spend a lot of time around planes as a child.

“Working with airplanes and getting to fly is something I wanted to do early on,” said Brandon. “He coached me and fostered my abilities to do it.”

His son has learned a lot from his father through the years. Brandon said one major lesson learned from his father was to take care of people in your family life and professional life.

Price influenced others by setting the standards with his hard work ethic.

Fox said Price taught him to give his best and keep showing up. “Not just showing up to punch the clock, but showing up to come in here and make a difference. Not only for the squadron but also for taking care of the people.”

Russell said, “I’m honored by your service and dedication. The unit wouldn’t be as good as it is; we would not have functioned as well without you.”

Some people work all their life doing the minimum. Others spend their career chasing medals and awards that will eventually be lost to time. People like Price spend their time building a legacy.

“A retirement ceremony is something you owe to your family and the people you served with,” said Lt. Col. Price. “It gives you a sense of history and thought of your future.”

Price knows that his career is not defined by the accolades he took with him. It was the people he influenced and the work he left behind.