Farewell, Air Force
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force #15 Rodney J. McKinley
Remarks at his retirement, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., June 30, 2009
Secretary and Mrs Donley, General and Mrs. Schwartz, Admiral and Mrs. Keating, General and Mrs. Fraser, General Hester, General Baldwin and Mrs. Baldwin, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force McCoy, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Binnicker, Mrs. Murray, other distinguished guests, family members, and fellow Airmen -- thank you for being here this fine morning!
Exactly three years ago this morning I stood here and remarked at how great our Air Force Honor Guard and Air Force Band looked on this marvelous parade field; that hasn't changed. You represent our Air Force and all Airmen in an outstanding manner and we thank you.
Thirty-five years ago today, my father drove two of my high school friends and myself to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Cincinnati, Ohio. We processed in and later boarded a flight for San Antonio, Texas, headed for Lackland Air Force Base. I had never flown in an aircraft and didn't fully understand the significance of how my life was changing. The Vietnam War was winding down and it was still unpopular to wear a military uniform. Back then we wore 1505s, that's the khakis, and we ran our mile-and-a-half in our combat boots or chukkas. It's amazing how some things never change. Uniforms are still a hot subject and so are the boots!
I have so much to be thankful for. I am so proud to be an Airman and extremely thankful for all the opportunities the Air Force has given to me. I've had the opportunity to serve our country for 30 years, learned how to be a medic, a maintainer, raise a family, receive a first-class education, see the world, and been given the equal chances to advance into various leadership positions. During this journey of 30 years, it isn't the awards, decorations, recognition, or rank that means the most to me. It's the people -- the relationships I've experienced along the way. There are so many people that mean so much to me; I won't even attempt to name them all for fear of leaving someone out.
Everyone along the way has touched me and hopefully has made me a better Airman and a better man. To everyone who has touched me in any way during my career, thank you for your friendship, guidance, mentoring, and yes at times, a little butt-chewing! All our life experiences matter and help make us who we are.
I am very humbled to have had this opportunity to be the 15th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. I want to thank General Hester for having faith in me to nominate me and General Moseley for hiring me. Thank you also to General Schwartz for keeping me on for another year.
To all the former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force, thank you. You have always been there for Paula and me with nothing but the greatest support and friendship. We only wish that we didn't have to witness the passing of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Pfingston and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Airey. We miss them both.
The past three years have been incredible. I can't believe this small town boy from Ohio could grow up and have these opportunities. I never dreamed all of this could be possible.
My philosophy has always been simple. I always do my very best at whatever job I have. I always treat everyone with dignity and respect, and I have left it up to the leaders to decide where I go to next. I have always given my best and put the needs of our Airmen first.
I have never lost sight that every moment of the past three years we have been fighting two wars. Paula and I have a constant reminder of that every week.
The medical busses travel from the flight line to Malcolm Grow hospital and pass our home on Andrews. We know there are many wounded warriors on board. Because of their injuries, their lives, and the lives of many others, are forever changed.
During my tenure as CMSAF, 42 Airmen have been killed in action and another 251 Airmen were wounded.
To all the families, friends, and coworkers of the fallen; our hearts go out to you. I can't imagine your grief. I carry each one of their names with me, and always will. I also mourn their loss. They were my Airmen.
To all the wounded Airmen; we are dedicated to taking care of you and your family. I know two of our Wounded Warriors are here today - Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro, with his wife Carmen, and Tech. Sgt. Matt Slaydon, with his wife Annette. Your courage and dedication in spite of your injuries continue to inspire us all.
Carmen and Annette; the love, strength and care you give our brothers-in-arms go beyond any words I would have to express our appreciation. Thank you.
For any other Wounded Warriors joining us here today, we honor you and thank you for your service and sacrifice. I will continue to fight for your well-being as well as all veterans after my retirement from the Air Force.
To all Airmen! You continue to make us all very proud. I have the greatest respect for what you do, how you represent our Air Force and country. You have never ceased to amaze me with your dedication, motivation, strength and determination.
We have all read about the greatest generation - those who served during World War II
Yes, they most certainly were the greatest generation, but I also believe our next greatest generation is serving our country right now. That is all the branches of the Armed Forces, serving shoulder to shoulder, doing what is necessary to defeat our enemy so our citizens can remain safe from fear of another 9-11 or similar attacks.
To my family. It's very special to have so many of you here today. I know we have missed a lot over the years. And yes Mom, I know that I could have retired at 20 years. But Mom, I have always loved the Air Force and all the relationships and opportunities along the way. Still, I thank you for your love, support, and understanding over the years and I want you to have these flowers as a token of my love for you.
Retirement is here, and although many years have passed, we plan to see all our family much more in the future. Thank you for your patience, support, and love.
To my wife Paula. You didn't know exactly what you were getting into when we married a little over 9 years ago. We have seen so much. We have moved many times and you have always been there to make it all more special. I am so lucky and blessed you are my wife and now we are going home to our kids and grandkids. Paula, I love you so much, and I want you to have these roses, you mean so very much to me. I look forward to our new journey ahead of us.
To Jim and Paula Roy. Our Airmen and Air Force are blessed to have you. We have known you for a long time and know that you will do an outstanding job as #16. I and all the other former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force congratulate you on your selection, wish you the best, and will always be here if you ever need us.
I love this great country of ours and what it stands for. I love our Air Force, and I am very proud to always be an Airman.
Paula and I want to thank each and every one for attending. God bless you all.