KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
For those participating in person this weekend, it’s been a while, and it will be nice seeing your faces again even if you are masked up! Welcome back; but sadly, goodbye as well.
This will be my last Unit Training Assembly as the 403rd Wing Command Chief. As always, change happens. For those who aren’t aware, a command chief tour is normally three years. As I was going into my third year I knew it was time I started seeking opportunities or gearing up for retirement. Personally, I was gearing up for retirement, but then sometimes there are those opportunities that come up that you never think you’d go for until you do. That is what happened in this instance. Come Monday, I’ll be packed up and hitting the road to finally, after five years of managing a relationship and life apart, be co-located with the boyfriend as well as starting a new position at the Pentagon.
“They” (there is always a “they”) requested that I do a short piece to highlight my accomplishments; however, my accomplishments aren’t mine at all. Every single one of those accomplishments belongs to you. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been able to witness just how incredible this wing is. You may not have always seen me lurking about, but I was. You, the Airmen of the 403rd Wing, have pushed yourselves to the brink of exhaustion to accomplish the mission … and that is what you have never failed to do, accomplish the mission.
I’ve watched as you revved up for compliance inspections, a crazy number of hurricanes, multiple deployments, mission-focused exercises, evacuations, no-notice taskings, worldwide support for COVID and much more. You’ve taken on challenges to develop, racked up some stripes through promotions, and jumped into special duty assignments, and a few of you broke that second rocker barrier to add a third as chief master sergeants. In addition, our officers have elevated to new ranks as well; there are some great wing commanders in the making amongst you to which I’ll be happy to see your names on the lists when they appear. Your incredible attitudes and your ability to adjust at a moment’s notice and really tackle what lies ahead is what makes you all the best part of this wing. This is why, at least on the enlisted side, we wanted to hear more on how to further progress and incorporate change.
Last UTA was the inaugural meeting of the 403d Wing’s newly formed Enlisted Council. The idea is to give enlisted Airmen a voice at all levels. Thirteen members from each of our three groups, along with Aeromedical Staging Squadron and the Wing Staff, were selected to become representatives to sit on the enlisted council. Each group is represented by a senior NCO, NCO and an Airman who are your conduits to wing leadership. They will be asking you for ideas, suggestions and information on how to make this wing truly the Wing of Choice. They will meet quarterly with the wing command team to discuss those ideas or suggestions. Right now, there is still some initial organizing to do, but when they are ready to go live you will get further information about who these members are and what they are advocating for on your behalf.
As for me, I want to say thank you for teaching me what it means to be a command chief. Thank you for your mentorship from the newest Airmen to the oldest. I certainly know I didn’t learn enough from you, and I feel I’m leaving too quickly. During this transition, Chief Master Sgt. Jessica McBride, with the 403rd ASTS, has volunteered to step in as the interim command chief until Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, our wing commander, hires your next command chief. I have no doubt she will do an excellent job, so please offer her all the support you can!
With that, I say my final goodbye and leave this bit of advice to our newest Airmen: dream big, don’t stand in your own way of success by thinking, “I can’t.” Do not ever lose your voice; dare to speak out and up when you see something that is unethical, immoral, and/or against the law; never back down from asking a friend or co-worker, “are you thinking about or decided on suicide;” and finally, take the time to take care of you. I’ll miss our conversations and the many times you have uttered the words “Hey Chief, got a minute,” which was always more than a minute. I won’t forget my time here; being fully blessed to have had it while gaining wisdom through my time here. Thank you commanders, officers, chiefs, first sergeants, civilians and every enlisted member within the 403rd Wing. I have found friendships for life in here, and I will carry this wing in my heart always.
Chief Master Sgt. Amanda J. Stift
Command Chief of the 403d Wing