Retired chief still impacts battlefield, honored in Hall of Honor

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Salanitri
  • Air Force Special Operations Command
The retired Chief lines up his shot. He's looking at 100 yards with a strong crosswind using a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher. His target is a 10-by-10 inch X on the door of a UH-1 helicopter. The crowd of about 100 looks in anticipation-- BOOM! Direct hit!

Retired Chief Master Sgt. William Walter is a book you can judge by its cover.

Within the first 10 seconds of meeting Mr. Walter, with the Air Force Special Operations Command Strike Requirements Office, it's evident this man is a professional. Everything from his tactical pants and combat boots, to his neat and well ironed shirt -- once a chief, always a chief.

Mr. Walter, along with retired Col. John Carney and the late Brig. Gen. Heinie Aderholt, were added to the Commando Hall of Honor during recently in Tampa, Fla.

Many things make these men unique in their skills set, but unique to Mr. Walter is that he's still employed by AFSOC and doing what he loves.

After retiring with 26 years of active-duty service as a gunner, Mr. Walter picked up where he left off soon after, as a civilian.

"My job is interesting to me," Mr. Walter said. "I like guns -- big guns. I like shooting things, I like ammunition, and I like the mechanics of it all. I'm one of the rare lucky ones. I love my job."

Mr. Walter's accomplishments are vast and long-lasting. Things he has done decades ago are still being used on the battlefield and in training today.

One of his greatest accomplishments is the design of the 105-mm high-explosive/high-fragmentation anti-personnel cartridge for the AC-130 gunship. The round has proven to more than 400 percent effective than the munition it replaced, and continues to pay dividends in current combat operations.

"I'll never forget a fellow gunner coming back from down range and telling me how effective the new round was," Mr. Walter said. "I knew it was going to be effective, but to the extent that it was...well, that was a nice surprise."

Trying to pick out only a couple of Mr. Walter's achievements is a task. His contributions to not only the Air Force, but the battlefield are inspiring and long lasting.

"I have this phrase that I use on my team," said the Bird Island, Minn. native. "Somewhere along the line, we're all on the same team. When others fumble the football, we pick it up and score a touchdown."

He also understands the value of a dollar. 

He has saved the government millions of dollars. To reduce costs and improve training, he developed and reengineered, unusable 40-mm rounds, which will result in a savings of more than $60 million in a 10-year span, according to his official biography. For this, he received an award from the IDEA program.

"There were 300,000 rounds of 40-mm ammunition from World War II just sitting around a building waiting to be destroyed," Mr. Walter said. "The rounds were already paid for during WWII, so why not use them? For every one 40-mm round, we get five more from the WWII rounds. It allows for our guys to train longer, making them more proficient and effective on the battlefield."

Men like Mr. Walter have the ability to fly under the radar at times.

"Everyday my team is doing awesome things that are considered ordinary because of our standards being so high," Mr. Walter said. "When you expect nothing, but the best out of yourself and your team, others start to expect the same and that becomes the standard."

Mr. Walter has achieved the dream -- loving something and finding a way to get paid for it.

"Bill is a walking encyclopedia of the history of AFSOC and the gunship," said Maj. Walter Winter, the Strike and Requirements Office, Gunship Requirements Branch chief. "He is probably one of only a couple of people who you can truly call a subject matter expert on SOF weaponry and ammunition."

Hearing his name will be added to the Commando Hall of Honor was a surprise to Mr. Walter, but it will be in good company. General Aderholt was known as Air Commando One, for pioneering Air Force special operations.

"I know Coach (Colonel Carney) and I knew Heinie (General Adherhalt) well," Mr. Walter said. "These men have done things that have impacted the Special Operations Forces community greatly. I'm not being recognized because of the highest rank I achieved, but because of the legacy of capabilities and tactics I developed over the year that continue to benefit those going downrange. That is the most important aspect -- serving my fellow SOF warriors is the true honor."