MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Recently I took a trip to South Dakota and you are probably asking yourself “why would you travel to South Dakota in November?” Well, the South Dakota Air National Guard is where I enlisted after my brief time on active duty. I ‘Palace Chased’ into the unit and shortly after attended my first drill as a Lobo. As I met all the members I would be working with, one stood out immediately. At the time when I met Jim, he was one of the fulltime technicians in the shop and was someone I came to lean on with all my questions. I was a young man and had never worked on flight equipment for fighter jets and fighter pilots before. So I had quite a few of them. We soon became very good friends and as the years went on I continually learned from him not just what I needed to do the job to the best of my ability. But he also taught me a lot of things that a young twenty-something needs to continue to grow and be mature. He eventually became the superintendent of the shop and I watched how he interacted with the people in the shop and our leadership. He was well respected.
After 35 years of service to his country both as the aircrew flight equipment superintendent and later the operations group superintendent he decided to retire. There was no way after everything that he has done for me that I was going to miss his retirement. So off to South Dakota I went to attend his ceremony. During the event I saw a lot of people that I knew when I was there. Some have retired and some are still serving and all making sure they came to show Jim the same respect he had shown them all those years. As I sat and listened to everyone presenting gifts and accolades to him waiting for my turn, I found myself thinking about how many people that he has had an impact on in his life and career. That is the type of man he is.
Eventually I moved on and joined the Swamp Foxes where I too got the chance to be a superintendent. Many times I would be at my desk working and my phone would ring, the display showing that familiar number. “Hey Bud” he would say “just checking on you to see how things are going.” We would talk for a while discussing work and life highs and lows. I commonly found that just being able to speak frank with a good friend made the day better.
Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide which he definitely was and is. But he was also a friend that wanted to see me succeed. Being in the profession that we are in, the opportunity is there to meet a lot of exceptional individuals to call mentors, friends and hopefully both. People that are behind you no matter what happens, that drop everything to listen and advise. There should never be a reason for anyone to feel like they didn’t have someone to talk to. Or feel a stigma that it is some kind of weakness to just need some help.
This has been quite the year, I am hopeful that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and let’s hope that with the New Year we start to get back to some form of normalcy.