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Retired CMSAF connects with Airmen

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland (AFNS) -- Retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Robert Gaylor is no stranger to visiting Airmen worldwide, sharing stories of his time in the Air Force and encouraging the younger generation to take pride in everything they do.

During his visit March 30, Airmen with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center had the opportunity to hear his message and meet the fifth chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

“Any time we get to meet and hear from a retired chief is a privilege,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Foremski, an AFIMSC budget analyst. “They’ve been there and they’ve set the stage for us.”

Foremski said one of the chief’s messages was about trust, which is part of the four T’s: training, technology, tribe/family and trust. Gaylor uses the four T’s to explain how he believes the Air Force has changed throughout the years.

“I entered an Air Force absent of trust. When I first became an air policeman we were issued our badge, but had to turn it right back in. They were afraid we would abuse it to get free bus rides or into movies,” Gaylor said. “But through our hard work, guys like me proved that we could be trusted and wouldn’t abuse it, but rather wear it with honor. And now Airmen keep their badges.”

This was one example of many the chief shared about how the Air Force has evolved into a more trusting organization through the professionalism of past generations. Foremski said he felt a direct connection when hearing that.

“Even though he was talking to the entire room, I felt as if he was singling me out,” Foremski said. “I am big on accountability and took it to heart when he shared his stories and then followed by saying, ‘remember us, don’t screw it up; we’ve set the stage, keep carrying the torch.’”

This isn’t the only connection Foremski made with the chief during the speech. In a separate story, Gaylor shared his experience of the time he held the door for a top Air Force leader and how that helped him stay grounded despite his accomplishments.

“When I was a two-stripe Airman, I got to open the door for the then-secretary of the Air Force when he visited our base,” Gaylor said. “That was my only job – to hold the door open, but I felt so proud. I called my mom to tell her the news and ever since then anytime I visit with Airmen, I recall that moment and treat them as I were in their shoes talking to me.”

Foremski said he was also humbled by a similar experience while a student at Airman leadership school at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“I have my own door story and [Gaylor] was there,” Foremski said. “Five former chief master sergeants of the Air Force were visiting the base and I was picked to hold the door for them. And as a senior airman at the time, that was a big deal.”

The then-Senior Airman Foremski went on to complete ALS and at graduation took a photo that he says brings him full circle to Gaylor’s present day visit.

“It was just like any other graduation; you come up, get your certificate and picture taken, and move on, but that time was different.” Foremski said. “The photo was with the fifth chief master sergeant of the Air Force, chief Gaylor.”

After hearing that Gaylor was visiting JB San Antonio-Lackland, Foremski grabbed the 17-year-old graduation photo and headed for the chief Gaylor’s all call.

“It made me feel special when he signed it,” Foremski said. “It wasn’t just a signature, he spent his time looking at it and asking about the details of when and where it was shot. It made me realize that he is genuinely interested in all the Airmen he visits.”

Gaylor considers it an honor to be around Airmen and spend time connecting with them.

“To have a senior noncommissioned officer come up to you with a photo they took with you as a three-stripe Airman years ago and request a signature, is amazing. I can’t describe the feeling,” Gaylor said. “That made my day.”

At age 86 and despite fighting health issues, Gaylor continues to visit Airmen, because he says it makes him feel like he’s still part of the Air Force and can still make a difference in their lives.

“Visiting with Airmen is what I live for … and it’s better than taking medication,” Gaylor said.