Former 'dirt boy' retires as Air Force's top enlisted Airman
Tech. Sgt. James Roy (center left), poses with fellow instructor Tech.Sgt. Lance Davis (right) at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., during a bulldozer class for heavy equipment operators. Roy served with the 3770th Technical Training Group from January 1988 to May 1992. (Courtesy photo)
by Teresa Hood
Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs
1/28/2013 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- "Dirt Boy Did Good" would be a great working title for a movie about former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy's 30-year career.
His first Air Force job, after he joined in 1982, was in civil engineering as a heavy equipment operator, a "dirt boy." His last, the one he retired from Jan. 24, was the top enlisted position for the service.
Within CE, "dirt boys" are earth movers, the men and women who guide and maneuver the big machines that create the foundations for the Air Force's structures, roads and runways.
"Chief Roy worked for me as a senior airman in the 554th RED HORSE at Osan Air Base, (South Korea)," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Johnny Larry, also a dirt boy. "He was as outstanding then as he is now -- committed 100 percent to the Air Force and CE, dedicated and serious about the job, preparing for war, and always, always looking forward.
"He may not remember it, but I sure do ... In 1987, at one of our flight meetings, he told me one of his goals was to be chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Larry recalled. "And look what he did!"
When Roy became the 16th chief master sergeant of the Air Force on June 30, 2009, he assumed the office that represents the highest enlisted level of leadership. The chief master sergeant of the Air Force serves as a personal adviser to the Air Force chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force on all issues regarding the enlisted force and their families.
Roy's first assignment in 1983 was with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and his last with the 81st CES at Keesler AFB, Miss., with stops in between at Osan and Kunsan Air Bases, South Korea; Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.; and Andersen AFB, Guam.
"The civil engineer career field provided me with experiences that went on to shape one of my top focus areas as chief master sergeant of the Air Force, 'Partner with Joint and Coalition Team to Win Today's Fight,'" Roy said. "My technical training at Ft. Leonard Wood was a joint environment, and that made working with sister services very natural. I later returned to Ft. Leonard Wood to train Airmen and Soldiers, and that reinforced the idea that working together was a good thing.
"I believe the Airman I am today was shaped by those joint experiences and by partnering with the reserve component. I've always had a very close relationship with the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, because we worked closely and shared training opportunities in many of the places I worked. To us, a person's component or service branch didn't really matter because we were all focused on getting the mission done."
Civil engineers who worked with Roy at Keesler AFB, said he always took the time to offer advice and opportunities to shape their careers.
"I was a new master sergeant-select in the underground utilities shop and Chief Roy was the facilities maintenance superintendent," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Todd Gumprecht, who rose to the level of the CE career field manager before retiring a few years ago. "He asked me to take the lead as a zone foreman and I initially resisted. He told me, 'If you are going to reach your full leadership potential, you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone.' After that position, I never looked back."
Roy also inspired retired Master Sgt. Barbara Samuels.
"He put me in facility maintenance, at the time a very male-dominated field," she said. "I was a staff sergeant and he told me, 'It doesn't take rank to do a job, but wisdom and knowledge.' He's the reason I have my master's degree."
In 1999, Roy moved from CE into the series of leadership positions at group, wing, numbered air force and combatant command levels that led to his job as chief master sergeant of the Air Force . Over the past three years, he's looked out for his fellow enlisted Airmen and their families as they dealt with a high deployment rate and its associated stresses.
"I've had the opportunity to work with Chief Roy on several occasions over the last 14 months," said Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Lewis, chief of enlisted matters in the office of the Air Force Civil Engineer at the Pentagon. "We had the unfortunate experience of welcoming home several of our wounded warriors at (Joint Base) Andrews, and as I observed him, he spoke with every single service member on the C-17 (Globemaster III) that late evening. Chief Roy took the time to talk to everyone about family and life and thank those members for their sacrifice. Although he is and always will be a dirt boy, he's a passionate, true professional who cares endlessly about our total force."
The movie of Roy's career would paint the picture of a young Airman whose early days of dedication and vision as a civil engineer professional led to his ascent as the Air Force enlisted corps' top wingman. The opening scene would include civil engineers and a lot of dirt.
"I started my technical training in November 1982," he said. "More than 30 years later, I still sincerely appreciate what civil engineers do. I'll always be a dirt boy."