End of an era

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis Siekert
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Of the more than 264,000 enlisted Air Force members, less than 1 percent ever reaches the rank of chief master sergeant.

Even fewer serve 30 years, but in a recent ceremony, the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron said goodbye to two 30-year chiefs as they continue their journey outside the military.

From the introduction to the computer, many uniform changes, several international conflicts and service restructure, these chiefs have seen a lot in their collective 60 years of Air Force experience.

Chief Master Sgts. Leslie Jones and Louis Suarez both began their active duty career in the fall of 1983.

"They say to find a job you like, and I love my job," said Jones, 52nd CES chief enlisted manager. "If you don't like what you're doing, find a better job. If I wasn't having fun, I would have gotten out after my first four-year enlistment."

Both chiefs made the most of their career with many duty locations, deployments and force changes.

While reflecting on their careers, the chiefs spoke only of the great times they've shared with their fellow Wingmen, their accomplishments and the pride they share for their teams. They also reminisced on lessons learned and -- as expected from two Airmen with 60 years of combined experience -- advice for those who will continue to serve.

"You learn so much from the people around you," said Suarez, 52nd CES Operations Flight superintendant. "I have had some wonderful leaders and maybe some not so wonderful leaders, but as it has been said before, there is no such thing as a bad supervisor, there are just very good examples of what not to be."

"I think the best leaders were those who made you feel like you were working with them, not for them," Jones added.

Jones also encouraged everyone to step out of the box and try new things.

"Don't be afraid to make a mistake; that's how things are invented," he said, his trademark smirk in place.

"You followed very different paths, but showed the same excellence in service throughout," said Lt. Col. Bradley Johnson, 52nd CES commander, to the chiefs in the ceremony. "We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude, but we know that's not why you did it. You both clearly did it for the honor to serve your country and your fellow Airmen. At each assignment, you truly showed you loved your job, you loved your Airmen, you loved what you did and we're all blessed to be a part of that journey."

"We're getting put out to pasture, and as bitter-sweet as it is, I have faith in the future of the Air Force," Suarez said with a smile. "I'll miss the camaraderie -- band of brotherhood, but now I have the freedom to sleep in if I want to!"

"I'll really miss hanging out with engineers; I'll miss the smell of a canvas tent; I'll miss the discipline," Jones said. "But the Air Force has prepared us well for a life after the Air Force."

Moving forward in outside the Air Force will be a new chapter in both of their lives, but while Jones may dislike the inconvenience of having to pick out his own clothes in the morning, Suarez is looking forward to it.

The two CE chiefs have left their mark and will be missed.

"Personally, I am very grateful, and thank you for your fantastic mentorship and leadership you've provided me and this squadron in your time here and throughout your career," Johnson said. "We've deeply enjoyed serving with you. Good luck with your family, God speed."