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April Chief's Perspective

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mark Drafts, from the 169th Maintenance Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base,  March 8, 2017.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mark Drafts, from the 169th Maintenance Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, March 8, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

As I look back over the last 35 years of my career, all of it spent right here at McEntire, it is hard to believe it is coming to an end. I enlisted right out of high school. Because like many other guard babies, I was recruited by my dad, who was also a guardsman and spent 35 years in the 169th Resource Management Squadron. I was born while he was deployed to Spain. My mom said I was the postman’s baby.  Yes, his full-time job was as a postman. I became a full-time technician a couple of years after enlisting and it has been a great career. I have deployed all over the world and have seen some amazing places. I look around at all the young airmen and wonder where the time has gone. 

I have had many friends and mentors throughout these years and I hope that I in turn have inspired and mentored those around me. People say “when he leaves that shop how is it going to be” but there is always someone around to take up the slack and make it better. As my career winds down and I look around, I see the future of McEntire in the hands of so many young capable airmen. I am so proud of the airmen and NCO’s that work for and with me. I have had the experience of a life time and enjoyed almost all of it. I could have done without sharing tents with 40 other guys, the portable showers, toilets and the feeling of never feeling clean while deployed to many desert locations. But as they say you have to take the good with the bad and I personally know that there have been more good than bad.

I encourage all of you to take advantage of the many opportunities that the Air Force affords you. Education, travel, and friendships that will last a lifetime. Also don’t forget about the annual training days. Annual training is valuable because it gives everyone more time to become experienced at your job, which in turn makes it easier when deployed. Technicians as well as traditional guardsmen can appreciate the benefits of this extra time. I hope everyone makes an effort to do as many days as possible, they are free and there for the taking. If you do not use them somebody else will. You will appreciate it when you start receiving your retirement check. You will appreciate it more if you continue to deploy because the days will add up in ninety-day increments, which will potentially qualify you for a reduced retirement age before the age 60 depending on the orders you are on. Go to the My PERS dashboard and apply under Reduced Retired Pay Age.

I would like everyone to remember just because we are serving our country in these unpredictable and trying times, take it one day at a time. Love what you do and remember your family during all this. Your family makes sacrifices just as much as we do, so be sure to thank them for what they do. I could not have done this all these years if not for the respect and dedication of my family. Thank you everyone for all you do for your country and for McEntire JNGB.