News>Fifth CMSAF delivers inspirational speech at Grand Forks AFB
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Jim Bradshaw, an honorary ambassador for Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., pose for a photo with fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert Gaylor at the chief’s recognition ceremony on April 27, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Jim Bradshaw, honorary ambassador to Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., light the final candle during the chief’s recognition ceremony on April 27, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Robert Gaylor, the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, delivers an inspirational speech during the chief’s recognition ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., on April 27, 2012. Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Jim Bradshaw, an honorary ambassador for the base, were honored at the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton and Jim Bradshaw were named the newest chief master sergeants at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., during an April 27, 2012, chief’s recognition ceremony at the club. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
Medallions sit waiting to be placed on Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton and Jim Bradshaw, the newest chief master sergeants at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., during an April 27, 2012, chief’s recognition ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton, 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, speaks during the chief’s recognition ceremony at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., on April 27, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Amanda N. Grabiec)
5/8/2012 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- An Air Force legend helped recognize Grand Forks newest chief master sergeants during an April 27, 2012, ceremony at the base club.
Retired Chief Master Sergeant Robert Gaylor, the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force from 1977 to 1979, served as the keynote speaker for the chief's recognition ceremony.
Gaylor's inspirational and humor-filled speech helped honor Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Crafton and local civic leader Jim Bradshaw, who was named the first-ever honorary chief master sergeant at the base.
Gaylor, who has visited Grand Forks about 20 times over the years, spoke of his own promotion to chief.
"It was 15 March 1967 ... you remember that year?" he asked the ballroom, packed with about 300 laughing attendees - many of whom weren't even born in 1967.
He was serving on a security police tour at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, and he thought, "Maybe this is my year."
He was on the way to check his mail at the post office when his grizzled personnel sergeant asked him if he had purchased his new chevrons yet. Gaylor said he asked if he should purchase chief's chevrons.
"How the hell do you expect me to know? ... but act surprised when the wing commander calls you," was the answer.
Gaylor said he remained a "basket case" waiting for the call. Four days later, it finally came.
"I still remember the feeling," Gaylor said of learning of the promotion.
He said he went back to his room, and took a look in the mirror.
"Hey chief," he said to his reflection. "You're the man baby!"
Gaylor explained to the audience just what an achievement - "a special event" - it is to be promoted to chief. Only one percent of the Air Force enlisted force can hold that rank at any given time, he explained.
"My grandkids found out if that they call me 'Chief Grandpa,' I write a bigger check," Gaylor said. "I want these chiefs we recognize to be very proud."
Gaylor put it in context for Crafton and Bradshaw, saying that if the only thing on his tombstone was, 'He was a Chief,' "that will be good enough for me."
Gaylor also explained the background of a catchphrase he uses to inspire leadership and pride.
He said he's always working in his yard, even in the hot Texas heat. A neighbor stopped one day and questioned why Gaylor, who's in his early 80s, spends so much time on physical labor. He asked why the retired veteran just didn't hire someone to do the work for him.
"Because my name is on the mailbox," he said. "That ladies and gentlemen is pride in ownership."
Gaylor said he saw that spirit during his tour of the base, using the Honor Guard building and staff as an example.
"I saw evidence of 'name on the mailbox' all day," Gaylor said.
Gaylor said he remembered watching a news interview during Desert Storm in the early 1990s. The reporter grabbed a senior airman and asked him questions about his role on the flight line. The young man told the reporter that the aircraft in the background was the best in the fleet.
When questioned why, he didn't spout statistics about the jet's capabilities. His answer was simple: "It's my airplane."
"If that don't light your fire, your logs are wet," Gaylor joked.
Gaylor turned to Crafton and Bradshaw to personally deliver his message.
"Chiefs, I would say to you, 'Allow your people to put their names on the mailbox.'"
He also told a humorous - and likely unforgettable - story about the responsibilities of leadership.
Gaylor said that years ago, he was in charge of "Airman Cooper."
"He was a challenge to my minimal leadership skills," Gaylor said. Cooper tried, but constantly failed, at any given task. During a field training exercise, Gaylor assigned Cooper to help the cook, telling him not to cause any problems.
Gaylor was in his tent a little later when he heard a scream that sounded like "mating coyotes."
He ran out to find Cooper jumping up and down, waving his arms in obvious pain. Cooper had reached into a hot oven, without mitts, and grabbed a pan that had been baking for hours.
"It was ugly," Gaylor explained. He took Cooper to the medic, who slathered the burns with medicine and wrapped huge rolls of gauze around both hands to protect the wounds until they could medevac him back to the hospital.
"It looked like he had two, big cotton fists," Gaylor explained. Gaylor ordered Cooper to sit - "just sit" - on a crate and wait for the medevac. A few minutes later, Gaylor felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Sarge," Cooper said. "I have to go to the bathroom."
The ballroom erupted in laughter as Gaylor "paused for effect" with the story.
"What does a good NCO do?" Gaylor asked. "Whatever you have to do. Whatever has to be done."
Gaylor said he thinks often about Cooper and the lesson in leadership he provided that day.
"So what kind of leader are you?" Gaylor asked the officers and enlisted in the ballroom. "What kind of mentor? What kind of role model?"
Gaylor told the crowd that they need to "model, demonstrate and practice" what they preach.
"That's what leadership is all about," he said.
5/21/2012 11:33:15 AM ET I had the honor of meeting CMASAF Gaylor at my NCOA graduation at Lackland in Apr 92. He was there because the Commandant was retiring. Not only him but there were 4 other former CMSAF including the 1st CMSAF Airey. Even John Levitow attended. He also spoke at an AFNEWS leadership conference I attended later in my career. CMSAF Gaylors' humor and leadership guidance is an inspiration for me today as I ply my through retiement. Douglas Rhodes MSgt USAF Retired
D. Rhodes, Ft Meade MD
5/10/2012 11:00:05 AM ET It has been my privilege, honor and pleasure to meet Chief Gaylor. I was fortunate enough to present him with a momento of appreciation for speaking at the Eielson Chief's Induction Ceremony many years ago. Several years later the Chief came to Peterson. I presented the picture to him and asked if he would signed it for me. He remembered that day so vividly. I was humbled by his gesture.
Don Miller, Peterson AFB CO
5/9/2012 3:12:18 PM ET Awesome article about a true leader and mentor. Thanks for continuing to share his story
Fellow Airman, USAF
5/9/2012 11:08:13 AM ET Chief and Selma Gaylor have been inside my life for nearly 40 years. He was the dearest friend and mentor to mynow deceased husband CMSgt Donald Dewey Shortand I remain a Bob Gaylor Groupie still overwhelmed by his prescence in my life. We have been so blessed by his inspirational speaking his laughter and frivolity go unmatched awesomely loving and kind. Thank you for this article perhaps one day all the old buffalos will be extinct I certainly hope we are developing more Chief's like CMSgt Gaylor and my precious husband Best Wishes
Barbara D. Short, MacDill
5/8/2012 2:59:27 PM ET A true CMSAF thank you CMSAF Gaylor for leading the enlisted force. We could use Chiefs like you in today's cllimate.
5/8/2012 11:20:02 AM ET CMSAF Gaylor presented my the Drillmaster Award during the graduation ceremony of the ADCOM NCO Academy class in December 1977. CMSAF Gaylor was exceptional kind to my family who had traveled to watch me graduate. Thank you again Chief. I was proud of my award but my greater pride was listening to CMSAF Gaylor speak and to shake his hand. Thank you for sharing this interesting article on CMSAF Gaylor it brings back many fond memories.William Valvo CMSgt USAF Retired