Lessons from each assignment

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. William Renner
  • 62nd Maintenance Squadron superintendent
As I come to the end of 30 years in the Air Force, I find myself looking back. Like every member of the military, there have been good and bad aspects of every assignment. I want to focus on the positive lessons I learned from each assignment.

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, where warm weather and sunshine are abundant. So, when my first assignment notification came in technical school, I was heartbroken. Where to? Grand Forks, North Dakota! I was eighteen, just out of high school, and the first time away from home. I questioned my decision to join the military. After arriving and getting settled, I met three good friends. For the next four years, these friends were my brothers. We did everything together. I truly believe I would not have re-enlisted in the Air Force if it were not for them.

My next assignment was Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft are constantly on Temporary Duty trips, taking only a small maintenance crew to maintain the aircraft. You quickly learn to rely on the members of your team to fix discrepancies and get the aircraft ready for the next day's flying. Relying only on yourself in those situations only gets you longer hours at work!

Moving on to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, I learned the value of mentorship. After moving from the flight line to the maintenance squadron, I met Michael Barrie. I can count on one hand the number of individuals who put as much effort into taking care of their people as he did. He taught me the value of mentoring and training your subordinates. Since then, I have strived to be like Mike! When Mike was handpicked by the wing commander to take on a wing tasking, I was chosen to take his place in the flight. When I moved to the flight, I knew the shop was in good hands because of the advice I received from Mike and applied to my successor.

From there, I was command leveled to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and met Sam Mata, who happened to be the mentor of Mike Barrie. He looked at my records and determined I needed to take the Fabrication Flight Chief position. Being an electrician, I knew very little about the fabrication flight. Complicating matters was working the F-117 and Low Observable technology. I learned to rely on the experts around me. I was constantly talking with the section chiefs. I also spoke with the technicians about why they did the tasks a certain way and how it impacted other systems. Utilizing their advice in my decision making made me a better leader. During the same assignment, I was chosen by the Group Chief to fill the Maintenance Operations Squadron Superintendent position, where I had the privilege of working with aircraft schedulers, analysis technicians, training specialists and quality assurance inspectors. Being further out of my comfort zone, I continued to utilize my experts for advice in my decision making. The maintenance operation squadron soared to new heights and flew through their Operational Readiness Inspection.

Next was Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. There I learned or reinforced two things. First, I picked up a line number for chief master sergeant. I learned my every move was closely watched by every Airman on base. I learned when "the Chief" gave his opinion, it became fact. I learned to think about my words and the possible impact they could have on others. I also had my belief in taking care of our Airmen's families while they are deployed is key to the success of the mission. I deployed twice during my tour at Eielson, and I was comforted that my family was well taken care of through the harsh winter months by friends and co-workers. I was free to focus on my mission in the deployed location.

And here we are at Joint Base Lewis-McChord where I have learned nothing is permanent and we constantly need to prepare ourselves for our next challenge in life. I am now three months away from the end of my 30 year career and I find myself looking forward to the next chapter in my life. So, as I transition to this new chapter, I challenge every Airman to look at each assignment and find that one thing that we can learn from to make us all better technicians, supervisors, Airmen and in my case, a civilian.