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Forty years of service culminate in retirement for one, continuing saga for another

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tonnette Thompson
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Two offices, at opposite ends of Sheppard, stand in stark contrast to each other.

In Bldg. 316, one office serves notice to any visitor that they are about to meet a self-affirmed "cat lady." Kitty figurines are perched atop the monitor, crowded around the keyboard, scattered across the desk. A small refrigerator is wallpapered with joke magnets and family photographs. A Yellow Rose of Texas certificate awarded by Governor Rick Perry hangs from the wall, along with various cat-related crafts. Even a slide show of kittens serves as the computer's screensaver. The office practically bursts with the personality of its occupant.

At the other end of the base, in Bldg. 1900, another office almost carries an echo of its soon-to-be former occupant. The walls are bare, once decorated with awards and memorabilia collected over a lifetime. The bookcase is empty, the desk holding only a computer and a handful of papers. Yet the sparse oak furniture is polished, and even the papers are neatly stacked. The office holds a sort of quiet dignity, a testament to the man vacating it.

These are the offices of Glenda Joyce Stephens, a court reporter with the 82nd Training Wing, and William Carl Law, training administrator for the 882nd Training Group. Aside from both preferring to go by their middle names, the two have something else in common: January will mark at least 40 years of civilian service at Sheppard for each of them.

While Mrs. Stephens will spend her 40-year mark continuing to personally handle sensitive documents related to court-martial offenses, Mr. Law will end his 41-year reign with retirement Jan. 3, bringing his career of overseeing the training of Sheppard's medical students to a close.

Before her present job, Mrs. Stephens could easily be described as a 'jack of all trades,' providing her administrative services wherever Sheppard needed her, working for the Security Police - as it was called then - Finance and the base hospital before finally settling into the base legal office.

She worked as a dispatcher for the local police department before earning a job alongside Sheppard's Security Forces. She spent three years as their clerk typist, maintaining Office of Special Investigation files, and then spent a year at OSI itself as a clerk typist. Mrs. Stephens also spent six years in Accounting and Finance, and three years in the Pathology Lab of the base hospital transcribing medical data.

She began working for Base Legal in 1979 as a board reporter, where she transcribed administrative discharge boards. She was promoted to her current position in 1996.

"My favorite of all these jobs would have to be where I am now," Mrs. Stephens said. "One highlight of my career was when men who were prisoners of war in Vietnam came home and they had to stop at Sheppard for debriefing. It was such an honor to meet them."

Mr. Law also cites his current position as his most memorable.

"I had more opportunities here, to influence change and help people," he said. "When I see pictures of medics on the battlefield, I think 'that could be someone who graduated here, someone we helped prepare.' Those are some of my people there."

Mr. Law was a sixth-grade teacher in Burkburnett when several of the students' parents encouraged him to apply for a position with the military. His efforts resulted in a job with Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. He then moved into the Personnel department, working every position within while preparing to be transferred to another base.

That base turned out to be Sheppard when, during a civilian audit, someone noticed his masters degree in education and offered him another job. He was promoted to his current position in 1983.

Both Sheppard veterans were in a position to witness decades of changes here.

"When I came out here, the wooden student barracks were still up; now they're all modern and made of brick," Mrs. Stephens said. "There's also a different attitude toward Airmen, far more relaxed than the 'old brown shoe' days."

"It's been exciting to see the changes, interesting to see the young Airmen and realize how young they look to me. I've got socks older than some of them," she chuckled.

Mr. Law also recognizes building construction as the most visible example of Sheppard's evolution.

"The replacement of all the World War II buildings is reassuring," he said. "It lets me know that Sheppard will be part of the Wichita Falls community for many years to come."

At Mr. Law's request, his retirement ceremony will not include the usual rundown of all the programs he managed, nor will his contributions be broken down into dollars. Instead, a simple written statement explaining his work ethic will be read by Col. Nancy Dezell, 882nd TRG commander.

"All I did was try to be a good Air Force employee who did an honest day's work," Mr. Law wrote. "I'm indebted to all the folks who I worked with and for. If there are any accolades ... they are the one who should receive them."

Mrs. Stephens, however, is still on a roll.

"People ask me when I'm going to retire; I tell them I can't right now," Mrs. Stephens said. "I'm so proud of our military and I'm fortunate to have worked with such a wonderful group of folks ... It's just beginning to get interesting ... I'm just not ready to give all this up."

"I can't wait to find out what the 40-year pin looks like," she said, proudly displaying the 10-year, 20-year and 30-year pins she's received. "And then ... I'll probably go for 50."