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AF vice chief of staff retires with nearly 44 years of service

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Airmen said goodbye and good luck to the Air Force vice chief of staff during his retirement ceremony on Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Aug. 7.

Almost 44 years and 18 assignments later, Gen. Larry O. Spencer stood in front of friends, family and Airmen for the last time in his Air Force career.

“God placed me in the Air Force and took me from airman basic to a four-star general,” Spencer said, “which must be classified as a miracle.”

Spencer, a native of Washington, D.C., enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering technology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and became a distinguished graduate of Officer Training School in 1980.

“He was excellent at every job, big or small,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “As a captain, he was listed as one of the Outstanding Young Men of America.”

During his career, Spencer held several extraordinary positions, including the first Air Force officer to serve as assistant chief of staff in the White House Military Office.

“Larry has told people for years, don’t be scared of competition. That’s what makes us stronger. It’s what’s makes us a better Air Force,” Welsh said. “And every time people look at the food chain, in Larry’s specialty areas, he tends to be at the top.”

Although retired, Spencer’s heritage will live on in the form of the Gen. Larry O. Spencer Innovation Award, established on March 20, 2015, by Welsh. The award will annually recognize Airmen who come up with creative and efficient ways to save the Air Force money and time. The award represents Spencer’s devotion to Airmen throughout his career and his steadfast support of the “Every Dollar Counts” campaign.

“During the next phase in my life, I hope to attend more football games,” Spencer said. “It would be a nice retirement gift if my team did well this year.

“People have asked me how I feel about being in Washington, D.C. for so long and I can only sum that up with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., and that is, ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last,’” Spencer said.

The ceremony concluded with a long line of people waiting to say their goodbyes and to thank Spencer for his service.