Long-time Wing member retires after 33 years of developing Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kristen Pitman
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Family, friends, and wingmen past and present gathered in the Roberts Consolidated Maintenance Facility auditorium Jan. 6 to celebrate Senior Master Sgt. Brett Blanchard’s retirement from the Air Force after 33 years of service.

Blanchard grew up in Houma, Louisiana, during a time when there wasn’t much opportunity, so he looked at all of the options the military had to offer.

“I wasn’t a bad student in high school, but college just wasn’t on the radar for me,” he said. “I talked to recruiters from the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marine Corps—all of them—but what set the Air Force apart from the rest was the lifestyle they described beyond just duty.”

He said the Air Force recruiter was able to shine a light on everything from base living to benefits to how the jobs available could translate in the civilian world, so in 1991, a young Airman Blanchard found himself working as a transportation specialist for the 2nd Transportation Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

“Going in, I thought my plan was to do my four years and learn a skill to land a job outside of the Air Force, but by the two-year mark, I knew I wanted to do this as long as they would let me,” he said. “The friendships and experiences I had were like nothing I had experienced before. I just loved it.”

After four years in the transportation world, Blanchard cross-trained to education and training, where he stayed for the remainder of his career. He served as a unit training manager at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma for the final four years of his active duty tour before transitioning to the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler AFB in 1998 as an education services specialist.

Through his various roles in the wing’s 403rd Force Support and Security Forces Squadrons, Blanchard played an integral part in many Airmen’s careers, enlisted and officer, establishing himself as a quintessential force multiplier and a go-to for mentorship.

Blanchard’s expertise and guidance eventually made it to his own doorstep. After years of stressing the importance of higher education to others, he abandoned the notion that college wasn’t for him and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2005. Ten years later, he proved that it’s never too late and obtained a master’s in business administration in his early forties.

“Countless Airmen can attest to Brett’s guidance and support that resulted in remarkable career and life progressions,” said Maj. Mack Fountain, 403rd FSS director of operations, during the retirement ceremony. “His invaluable contributions have ensured that not only are our Airmen trained, but that they are also equipped with critical thinking skills, ready to deploy and execute the mission effectively.”

Fountain reflected on Blanchard’s resume, describing him as an Airman who always ran towards the fight and an embodiment of the Air Force’s core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do.

Other members took to the stage as well to emphasize the impact Blanchard made not only on their careers but on their lives in general as a leader and as a mentor.

Beyond directly impacting so many lives and careers, Blanchard attributed the longevity of his service to the sense of belonging it provided him.

“Serving provides a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself,” he said. “It’s hard to explain, or bottle up, but if you serve then you know. I almost feel sorry for those who don’t experience what we get to experience.”

While Blanchard’s military career has ended, his time with the 403rd Wing has not. He accepted a civilian position as the wing’s manpower analyst where he’ll obtain and study data in order to improve processes and overall manpower effectiveness throughout the wing.

“I’ll miss the uniform and that aspect, but I’m grateful to be able to continue to be here with familiar faces and let my reputation precede me and continue to mentor,” he said.