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Message to our enlisted force

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley is scheduled to visit Dover Air Force Base Feb. 11 and 12. During his visit, the chief will tour a few Dover centers of excellence and help present the Maintenance Group Annual and Professional Performers of the Year Awards. Additionally, an enlisted call is scheduled on his behalf. (Courtesy photo)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley is scheduled to visit Dover Air Force Base Feb. 11 and 12. During his visit, the chief will tour a few Dover centers of excellence and help present the Maintenance Group Annual and Professional Performers of the Year Awards. Additionally, an enlisted call is scheduled on his behalf. (Courtesy photo)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Wow! That's the first word that comes to mind when I reflect on my first few months as the 436th Airlift Wing command chief. My wife Terri and our family are so honored to be a part of this winning team. During our time here, we've been simply amazed by the amount of buzz generated by Team Dover. Your daily contributions in defense of our great Nation have truly inspired me, and I can easily consider this experience the highlight of my 22-year career.

As you already know, few organizations can match the synergy, energy and capability of these two wings and this base. For that, I am humbled to be a part of this base and this organization as we stand unwavering at the forefront of America's response to the Global War on Terror. In my tours and interactions with the squadrons and units around the base, I am continuously impressed by the excellence our Airmen exude and are able to achieve. While I know that everyone has their own personal motivational story, today I'd like to share mine with you.

My story started one particularly cold morning in January 1986, when I was standing in formation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, anxiously awaiting our flight's opportunity to enter the dining facility. With only one month in my fresh career, I was overflowing with enthusiasm and motivation. My original plan was to finish a four-year enlistment, attend college on the Montgomery G.I. Bill, and then return to service as a commissioned officer.

Something changed me that day.

As I stood there, I heard the clicking of boot taps as a brawny man in service dress made his way down the corridor. I was standing at attention so I did not look directly at him but I remember seeing what looked like a "sea of stripes." I remember feeling a bit unnerved by his presence for he was a 'Chief Master Sergeant,' and he was only a few yards in front of me.

As a brand-new Airman, I was shaking in my boots. This was a man who climbed to the top of the enlisted ladder, and now looked down upon his new flock of Airmen. He carried the power to make tangible changes and positively impact the future of the enlisted force, and in large part what I consider the Air Force's backbone.

From that moment on, I established a new goal of becoming a chief master sergeant in the United States Air Force. So today, I find myself fortunate to serve as your command chief, on the finest Air Force installation with the greatest Airmen in the world. And just next week we'll all be fortunate enough to receive a visit from one of the greatest enlisted Airmen of this generation.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Rodney J. McKinley, is scheduled to visit this very installation next week Feb. 11 and 12. During his visit, the chief will tour a few of our centers of excellence and help present the Maintenance Group Annual and Professional Performers of the Year Awards. Most importantly, we will have the distinct pleasure of hosting an enlisted call on his behalf. What a wonderful opportunity to hear his perspective on what is shaping the future of our Air Force and Nation. If you are not inspired by that ... you should be!

Each of you is serving your nation in a time of war. You are a significant part of the mightiest enlisted corps this planet has ever seen - bar none! You serve a wealth of world-class officers and you do it with a level of unmatched professionalism.

When you put on your uniform each morning, I encourage you to take a good look at yourself. It doesn't matter if a lone stripe is sewn on your sleeve or you have eight stripes with a star in the center, you and I represent something grander serving a noble cause defending our Nation and protecting the liberties and rights of our citizens .

My message to you today is to 'Stay on course Airmen ... strive hard to achieve each of your goals.'

You've proven time and time again that you are leaders in each of your career fields and more importantly are vital contributors to a winning team. I know it, the commander knows it, and the Air Force knows it - which is why they are sending the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force here to celebrate your successes. This distinguished visit is proof positive, that the Air Force leadership recognizes the Airmen of Team Dover as the driving force behind "America's Preeminent Expeditionary Airlift Team!"