Moody civilian says goodbye for second time

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leticia Hopkins
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
For Thomas Neale a simple choice to join the Air Force led to an unexpected career. 

The 347th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, who entered active-duty July 28, 1961, ended his 45-year military and civil service career when he retired April 28. 

In an era when many men were being drafted into the military, Mr. Neale chose to enter the Air Force. Mr. Neale said he felt the Air Force had more to offer him and the decision allowed him to pick his branch of service instead of having it selected for him. 

The North Plainfield, N.J., native said when he arrived at the Military Entrance Processing Station office, drafted individuals were lined up and designated a branch as they went down the line. He added while he was in basic training he received the drafting letter he knew would eventually come. 

Mr. Neale began his career as a military pay apprentice. 

“After my first (enlistment) I was going to get out, but circumstances didn’t warrant it,” said Mr. Neale. “So after another hitch I decided I might as well stay and make 20 (years).” 

The budget analyst said the military gave him several benefits and he was proud of his military service. The finest moment in his career was a temporary duty assignment to Bangkok, Thailand. 

It was there he met his future wife. The two were married in 1971 and are still together. They have two daughters and now have a grandson. 

Mr. Neale and his family arrived at Moody in 1983 and three years later, after more than 25 years of active-duty service in the Finance career-field, the senior master sergeant retired here in 1986. Culminating his active-duty career, Mr. Neale was getting ready to leave the area when he received a call about a civilian opening at the base Finance Office. 

“I wasn’t planning to go into civil service,” said Mr. Neale. “I was getting ready to leave the area and they called me. There was an opening and they said to put in for it. I applied and fortunately got it.” 

After Mr. Neale accepted the position, he started in 1987 right where he left his military career back in Moody’s Finance office. 

“I came back to the same desk I left,” said Mr. Neale. 

When Mr. Neale returned to his desk, he worked in quality assurance. At the time of his civilian retirement, he worked on the flying hours budget. 

“All of (the) folks did not realize how much money, dollar-wise, he actually handled in the budget with the flying hours program,” said Marianne Tyson, 347th CPTS budget analyst.
Not only did Mr. Neale have an important role in the base’s budget but he also took time to help incoming Airmen. 

“The knowledge he brought helped the younger folks when they came into the office,” said Kenneth Rhodes, 347th CPTS financial systems analyst. He was able to take them aside, train and show them different aspects he had already gone through.” 

Mr. Rhodes added Mr. Neale’s pleasant attitude led to a fun working environment. 

Now, after more than 20 years at Moody, Mr. Neale has said goodbye to the Air Force again. He is not saying goodbye to the area however, as he and his wife will stay in Valdosta. 

He said he’s looking forward to fishing, gardening and traveling to see his daughters and grandson. 

Both co-workers said he’ll surely be missed and there is a void to fill. 

“I miss having my coffee with him every morning. He always had it ready for me when I walked in,” said Mrs. Tyson. “I already miss Mr. Neale; I miss seeing his face and his personality.”