Changing the Air Force culture

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Sheppard's top enlisted Airman, 82nd Training Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Kesler, is off to Florida's "Emerald Coast," where he will become the command chief at Eglin Air Force Base's 33rd Fighter Wing. 

Before departing the base, the chief took a few minutes to reflect on his experiences here and talk about the quality of the men and women of Sheppard. 

Chief Kesler said that his top priority upon becoming the wing command chief back in November 2004 was "to develop leaders of tomorrow," and he thinks that goal was fulfilled. 

"We're number one in so many areas - promotions, Community College of the Air Force graduates, new recruits into the Air Force Sergeant's Association, amount of money donated to charities like the (Combined Federal Campaign) and (Air Force Assistance Fund), and we consistently win the most awards at (Professional Military Education)," he said. "Our enlisted corps at Sheppard leads the way in overall professional development." 

The chief said he "absolutely" relished his assignment here - his time at Sheppard was his first as a wing command chief. 

"It was a joy to come to work every single day," he said. "I got to see the best that America has to offer in both our Airmen-in-Training and our permanent party personnel." 

The command chief said his fondest memory here came when he was called on the phone at about 2 a.m. by Brig. Gen. James Whitmore, the 82nd TRW commander, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., informing him that Sheppard was going to "ramp up" and take on 1,200 Keesler Airmen in an emergency relief effort. 

"Watching all of the people on base and in the community come together to help out and seeing the tears of joy on the faces of the Keesler Airmen when they saw the way our people took care of them, was just incredible," he said. 

The chief said he also took pride in the fact that during his time as command chief, the base professional development center evolved into a state-of-the-art facility, the Sheppard Enlisted Heritage Committee was established and the base Honor Guard program was re-energized. 

Chief Kesler said the enlisted members stationed here are in a unique situation in that they can help shape tomorrow's Air Force. He challenged them to "take advantage of being in this training environment." 

"When you head back to the field," he continued, "you'll know that you helped change the culture of the Air Force and the way Airmen prepare to carry out the Air Force mission." 

As for his successor, he imparted the following words of advice: "Be yourself and enjoy the ride - you'll never experience something as incredibly rewarding as serving in the 82nd Training Wing."