Farewell to the Patriot Wing

  • Published
  • By CCMSgt. Michael Thorpe
  • 22nd Air Force Command Chief
It has been an incredible journey. It began on the December A UTA in 1988 when a young airman basic drove through the gates of Westover to begin a career that would provide him many life lessons -- two of the most important being a sense of duty and loyalty.

I have cultivated friendships that will last my lifetime. In 1988, my goal was to be promoted to master sergeant if I was lucky. I never even thought of becoming a chief, never mind your command chief. But I didn't accomplish this feat alone.

I have had MANY great mentors who provided me the opportunities to excel. I cited I was a pack mule in a previous Patrioteditorial. But I kept pushing forward. Those mentors provided me opportunities to excel and correct me as needed. The list is long and distinguished. I promised not to provide this list to you since it will be as long as the credits as in the end of the movie, "Gone with the Wind."

These people know who they are, and I still seek their counsel to this day. But I would like to thank Col. Swain for initially hiring me, and Brig. Gen. Vautrain for allowing me to continue on as the command chief of this wing, the best job in the Air Force. I'd be remiss without thanking the Chiefs Council, because without their collaboration and guidance, we would not have reached the heights of excellence that we've achieved over the past few years. I also thank the First Sergeants Council, which spends countless hours ensuring our Citizen Airmen are prepared for the next challenge. And a thank you to the Company Grade Officers Council, Top Three and Rising Six Council for their exuberance and perspectives.

I could literally fill volumes on our successes as a wing, but there are two poignant moments during my tenure that truly reflect what I think the Patriot Wing stands for, and reflect what is still good and honorable in this world. We dedicated the 2012 Great New England Air Show to the Greatest Generation. As a student of history, I was awestruck with these true American heroes. Every Citizen Airmen went out of their way to ensure our distinguished guests were afforded the "red carpet" treatment. Not long after the air show, Brig. Gen. Vautrain received a letter from a daughter of one of these men. The letter stated that her father enjoyed the air show immensely, and that he was grinning from ear-to-ear the entire day. When he arrived home that evening, he had dinner and went to sleep.

He passed away during the course of the night.

You made his last day on earth one of the happiest of his life. That's the impact you had on a man who fought tyranny at a young age, came home and raised a family. It wasn't until his golden years that we truly appreciated this generation's sacrifices. That's the impact you have on our military family, our veterans.

The second moment was right after Superstorm Sandy. A member of this wing sent out a plea, not for herself, but for her community. Her neighborhood literally needed infant formula, diapers, food, and blankets to survive. Without hesitation, you opened your hearts and wallets. Within 30 hours we had a truck full of volunteers and supplies heading to New York City. That's the impact you have on our communities and our nation. These stories may not reach the media spotlight, but they do provide insight to the caliber of people we have within this wing.

It has been an honor to serve with each of you. I still truly enjoy being part of the 1 percent of this nation that defends the other 99 percent. As Citizen Airmen, our nation owes a debt of gratitude to you and your families. I would be remiss without mentioning my family. My family, like yours, have spent countless days without me. Please remember how important they are to you. When our time comes to a close, remember we will only have our memories and our families when we retire. They have sacrificed as much as we have, and our children even more. Cherish them, for you only have a finite amount of time before they buildĀ lives for themselves.

As my tenure came to a close here in late January and I moved on to 22nd Air Force to take on a new role, all of you need to know that the Patriot Wing will also have a special place in my heart. The life lessons I have learned over the past 25 years will serve me well. The most important decision I ever made in my life is to enlist in the Patriot Wing. I will treasure all the memories and all of the friends who have made the years travel by in a blink of an eye. The missions may change, but there is one constant, your loyalty and dedication.