By Tech. Sgt. Rob Hazelett, Air Reserve Personnel Center Public Affairs
/ Published February 26, 2015
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev were three leading names of the
1980s. Another great leader made headlines in the U.S. Air Force Reserve May 16,
1987, when the Air Reserve Personnel Center welcomed an African-American as
Col. Joseph C. Ramsey was the first and only
African-American commander of ARPC when it was previously located at the former
Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado. He served as the 21st ARPC commander until Aug.
He described what it meant to him to be ARPC's first and only
"Frankly, I've never given that idea much thought. It
was a high honor for me just to command that outstanding organization, and I'm
sure I approached that challenge in the same way as all other ARPC commanders
have," he said. "Nevertheless, I suspect that my experience has significance for
some, and if my example can somehow be used to inspire others, then my time at
ARPC is something worth noting."
He was inspired by a number of people
throughout his life. However, he considers his parents, Joe and Alma Ramsey, to
be his most important inspiration.
"They both lived their faith through
their good works, charity and ever-ready willingness to help others. In every
place where we lived, they were lauded as pillars of the community, and I grew
up wanting to be just like them."
He said the thing he liked the most
about his Air Force career was the ability to make things better.
liked to improve things in terms of mission capability, the organization and the
welfare and morale of the people who did the work. That's probably the reason I
stayed in the Air Force as long as I did," he said. "I once told my wife,
Amanda, we'd only stay until we didn't enjoy it anymore. That ended up being
another 23 years - retiring at the pinnacle of my career and still enjoying
every minute of it."
His leadership philosophy at ARPC evolved over his
career, and was born of many lessons learned.
"My philosophy included the
imperative to remove obstacles - regulatory, procedural, traditional or
otherwise. Add to that the need to constantly look for ways to improve work
procedures and systems technologies," he said. "I recognized early on one area
of weakness at ARPC was the preparation of first-line supervisors for their
duties managing people and programs. Too many of these new supervisors arrived
on the job with little or no previous supervisory or management experience and
had to muddle through the best they could."
To correct the deficiency,
his staff - in collaboration with Aurora Community College - developed a series
of supervisory training courses for first-line and mid-level
"I am convinced that ARPC's singularly successful call-up of
Air Force reservists and guardsmen for Desert Storm in 1990 was in large measure
attributable to supervisory improvements growing out of those training courses,"
Margaretta "Gretta" Burroughs, ARPC accountability officer and
contracting officer representative, remembers Ramsey fondly.
"He was a
man with integrity. His word was sound and he showed the people of ARPC that he
cared about them," she said. "He didn't let there be any difference in civilian
or military - we were all equal. We all had the same value and purpose to serve
and be leaders."
Burroughs, who has worked at ARPC more than 27 years,
said Ramsey helped direct ARPC in the direction for the future.
brought hope and great change to the people here and introduced a program of
empowerment to all of ARPC," she said. "He was the commander who eliminated the
old rotary phones when he was able to get the phone system upgraded to the push
Although there was resistance from some leaders who
didn't support empowerment for the people at ARPC, she described the
significance to having Ramsey as the first black commander at the
"It was a great joy for me. I was excited. This meant we had a
chance to see a man of color be in charge as well as lead an organization like
ARPC," she said. "People here could see he was trying to bring new and positive
changes to help improve us, and have ARPC grow future leaders and better
Burroughs said Ramsey's smile was infectious, and he knew
all his employees' names.
"He walked around, spoke to people maybe two or
three times weekly," she said. "He always asked how things were going in our
section, or if we had any new ideas to help improve the mission, and asked if
there was something he could help us with."
Along with giving people
tools for empowerment, Burroughs remembered the colonel felt education and
training were key to the success of ARPC. She said his advice to her was to do
"He executed leadership for all people civilian and military to
be a team," she said. "He strived to make everyone equal, and bring ARPC to the
level of excellence with success."
Ramsey said most of his big challenges
during his Air Force career were ones where he felt it was important to push for
changes that were constrained by existing regulations or policies or were
adamantly opposed by his superiors.
"After the Gulf War in 1991, the Air
Force directed a manpower reduction in all organizations - no exceptions. As the
regular Air Force experienced the normal drawdown in operations following a war,
the opposite was true for ARPC," he recalled. "Despite the 'no-exceptions'
mandate, we decided to fight any cuts. The ARPC staff put together a briefing
that made our case so convincing the chief of the Air Force Reserve had me brief
it to the Air Force chief of staff who approved our exemption on the spot. To my
knowledge, ARPC was the only AF organization to receive an exemption of that
force reduction directive."
When it comes to what he remembers the most
about being assigned to ARPC, he said he was proud to command and work alongside
the great people who make it special.
"ARPC has been blessed with the
finest, most dedicated and hardworking group of folks I've ever encountered in
one place," he said. "I think it is the unique culture and personnel
classification structure at ARPC that serves to imbue the ARPC family with its
extraordinary cohesiveness, its strong work ethic and its dogged pursuit of
An example of just how much the people of ARPC still care
for him occurred less than two years ago.
"Amanda and I were overwhelmed
by the outpouring of support we received from dozens of ARPC old-timers after
the loss of our son Joey in late 2013," he said. "To be remembered in such
sincere and heart-warming fashion - 20 whole years after I left ARPC - simply
confirmed something we already knew: that ARPCers are a very special bunch,
indeed. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts."
Since retiring from
the Air Force, Ramsey has done management consulting in Europe, Africa and the
Middle East in service of his clients. He said he has been enjoying home life in
Fort Washington, Maryland, where he and his wife recently celebrated their 49th
In his spare time, he loves photography, chess and
He received his commission through the Air Force Reserve
Officers Training Corps upon his graduation in 1964 from Butler University,
Indianapolis, Indiana. He was a distinguished graduate at both Squadron Officers
School in 1971 and Air Command and Staff College in 1979. While at ACSC, he
earned a master's in public administration from Auburn University, Montgomery,
Alabama. He also graduated from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in
Before arriving at ARPC, Ramsey held several positions: education
and training officer, joint processing unit chief, foreign training branch
chief, student detachment commander, military assistance program training
officer and office of the assistant chief of staff for officer commissioning and
management director, among others.
As ARPC commander, Ramsey was
responsible for the center's primary mission of mobilization to provide
personnel support and administrative capability to ensure Air Reserve forces
were a prepared, available resource in the event of a national
Ramsey's military decorations include the Legion of Merit with
two oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf
clusters and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He retired from the Air Force
in 1991 after 26.5 years of service.