Fifteenth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley talks to Airmen July 26, 2010, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Chief McKinley visited to meet Airmen in Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Brea Miller)
Fifteenth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley admires displays at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Enlisted Heritage Room July 26, 2010, during his visit to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Gino Mattorano)
by Master Sgt. Gino Mattorano
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs
7/28/2010 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The 15th chief master sergeant of the Air Force visited here July 26 and shared his perspective as the service's former top enlisted member.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley retired from active duty at the highest enlisted level in June 2009, but despite the transition to civilian life, he continues to take care of Airmen.
"To be a good Airman, you have to be the best you can be at your specific job that we trained you to do," he said. "It's important to think about your future, but right now, the job that you have needs to be the most important thing you do. So learn to do your job the best way you can, and listen to your supervisor."
To be truly successful, an Airman must have a balanced life, the chief said.
"Get your Community College of the Air Force degree stay physically fit, and eat healthy," he said. "Have a well-rounded, balanced life, and if you do all the right things and treat others with the proper respect that they deserve, leadership is going to take care of you and make sure you move up and have a successful career."
U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen have unique opportunities to experience things many Americans never get the opportunity to do, he said, recommending that Airmen take full advantage of their time in Europe.
"You have so many opportunities to get out and travel and build those great memories," he said. "So take advantage of being here in Europe and in our other theaters of operation, but remember that you still have to do your job and be the best Airman you can be."
As a recent retiree, Chief McKinley also talked about his transition to civilian life.
"I don't think I'll ever truly be a civilian, because I'm an Airman at heart," Chief McKinley said. "I was lucky enough to get hired by a great company that allows me to go out and do things to take care of Airmen and our wounded warriors. I stay very involved with the Air Force and the wounded warrior program, and it's all fun. It's been a great transition."
That transition has enabled him to get a closer look at how the public views the military.
"I've had the opportunity to be involved with the public sector, while still being involved with the military," Chief McKinley said. "And regardless of what their view on the wars may be, public support is tremendous for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen."
At some point, every Airman must transition back to civilian status, and Chief McKinley said the Air Force gave him the tools he needed to be successful in his second career.
"There are many things we learn while serving in uniform that help us transition to the civilian sector," he said. "What has really helped me has been the discipline I developed as an Airman. Civilian companies want to hire military people because they know we're going to be on time and do the things we're expected to do and we bring our work ethic with us."
Chief McKinley offered his advice to Airmen who are separating or retiring.
"You need to make sure you're prepared for yourself and your family, so take advantage of the Transition Assistance Program," Chief McKinley said. "Get your education all lined up, review your medical records and start working on resumes to make sure ready for that transition. But you don't want to start too early, because you're still an Airman, and we still want you to do the job we pay you for. Continue to be the best Airman you can be. There's a balance there. You have to make sure you're ready for that transition, but you still need to do the job we pay you to do."