Chief bids farewell to 30 years in Air Force

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Frances Locquiao
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
After 30 years of service in the Air Force, a Moody chief master sergeant recently bid farewell to the 723rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and his Airmen.

Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Johnson, 723rd AMXS aircraft manager, celebrated the end of his military career during a retirement ceremony Aug. 15.

"I feel excited about the next chapters of my life and settling down in one place," said Chief Johnson. "I will sorely miss the proud professionals of our enlisted corps and my aircraft maintainers."

Chief Johnson's career began on Dec. 15, 1978, when he traveled to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and endured basic military training.

"I was 19 years old when I joined," said the chief master sergeant. "I was interested in what the Air Force offered such as quality of life, job training, the adventure, college opportunities and security."

Then, the Franklin, Ind., native went to Sheppard AFB, Texas, in March 1979 for technical school, where he learned the skills to become an aircraft crew chief.

"Tech school was regimented and cold at the time, but I had fun," said the aircraft manager. "The Airmen's Club was bustling and it was nice to meet a collection of Airmen from all over the world."

After graduating from tech school, the chief master sergeant moved to his first duty station at Cannon AFB, N.M., in 1980, and married his high school sweetheart, Alice.

"I was stationed at Cannon for only a year before putting in for another assignment," said Chief Johnson. "The area was nice, but you really have to be from there to appreciate it. It wasn't a place for a young Airmen and his new bride."

His next assignment was Royal Air Force Bentwaters, England, where he served for four years. It was at RAF Bentwaters that the Chief Johnson, a senior airman at the time, decided to re-enlist for another four years.

"My decision to re-enlist was based on my wife and our newborn daughter," said the aircraft manager. "We enjoyed the benefits including the re-enlistment bonus and job security."

The chief master sergeant's other duty stations included Charleston AFB, S.C., Kadena Air Base, Japan, Malmstrom AFB, Mont., Macdill AFB, Fla., Kunsan AB, Korea, and finally Moody.

The aircraft manager experienced many assignments, but he couldn't decide which one was his favorite.

"I can't really say that I have a favorite since many good things happened in every base," said the chief master sergeant. "Every base had unique characteristics that made it enjoyable to be assigned to."

Chief Johnson, then 45 years old, was promoted to the rank of chief master sergeant in June 2005 at his one-year remote assignment to Kunsan AB.

"I've always wanted to become a chief and it was a proud moment when I became one," said Chief Johnson. "It's not just a job, but a way of life. Being chief is a special position and rank." 

The aircraft manager made his final permanent change of station to Moody in June 2006.

"For the months that I've known Chief Johnson here at Moody, he truly loved the military and embraced the military way of life," said Chief Master Sgt. Alejandro Alexander, 723rd AMXS aircraft manager. "It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of such a great person. He definitely paved a way for me and others to follow."

In addition to his duty stations, the chief master sergeant experienced 10 major deployments.

"I just got back from Iraq and it's probably the most meaningful because it was my last," said Chief Johnson. "Every time a deployed aircraft is launched, it gives me a sense of how important my job is to completing the mission."

As I look back to my 30-year military career, I know that I have learned so much, said the chief master sergeant.

"I learned a lot about life's lessons including how to be a dad, husband, son, mentor to my Airmen, and contributor to the community," he said. "I also learned about how to develop leadership skills, management skills, and technical aspects."

After his retirement ceremony, Chief Johnson plans to go fishing with his dad in Alaska and then travel to France and Italy with his wife of over 29 years. He is also looking forward to spending time with his three children: Lindsey, Hayley, and Ian.

In addition, the aircraft manager would like to earn credentials to start teaching at a high school level.

Chief Johnson would also like to thank his parents, wife and God for supporting him all throughout his career.

I truly enjoyed being in the Air Force and with that I have some words of advice to Airmen, Chief Johnson said.

"Follow your heart and do what is right," he added. "It is also very important to lead by example and practice active leadership."