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More than just an E-9; Chief retires after 37 years

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katie Spencer
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing
When people decide to join the military, one of the questions they ask themselves is, "How long am I willing to serve my country?" For some, the answer is one enlistment of four to six years. For others, the answer is 20 years as to collect retirement.

For Chief Master Sgt. Vernon Lundskow, the answer is 37 years.

Lundskow held a retirement ceremony July 14 in Hangar 10, here and will officially retire from the U.S. Air Force July 27, 2012.

Lundskow joined the U.S. Navy in 1975 where he served as an aircraft electrician. After five years of service to the Navy, he traded his sea legs for wings when he joined the Air Force Reserve as a staff sergeant at the 459th Air Refueling Wing, here.

Just 10 years later, Lundskow sewed on the rank of chief master sergeant. At the time, he was the youngest chief in the Air Force Reserve at 33 years of age.

"I let the smarter people do what they needed to do," said Lundskow. "I had good mentors and took the advice of my leaders. The timing was good and I was able to move through the ranks through the support of other folks."

During his tenure in the Air Force, Lundskow worked as an Air Reserve Technician in aircraft maintenance. He held numerous positions within the career field to include chief of the avionics branch, Flightline Expeditor and Superintendent of the aircraft generation branch and most recently, the superintendent of the 459th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"I have seen this wing go through a lot of changes in the last 32 years," he said. "We had C-130s, C-141s and now the KC-135 aircraft. I have been able to bounce around and work in different areas - it has not been boring. I have seen an Airman get their commission and who is now a colonel. "

With these changes came challenges for Lundskow.

There were no computers back in 1990 and things were done a lot differently, said Lundskow.

The Air Force has changed exponentially over the years and the biggest challenge has been to make the transition with these changes.

"The longer I have been a chief, the less I know because things are changing," he said. "I am not the guy who knows everything - I need to be the guy who bridges the old with the new and passes along the information."

Despite the challenges, Lundskow is proud of his accomplishments and serving his country.

"I am motivated by flying the flag," said Lundskow. "The proudest moments I have are when the jets are up and the gears are locked. I love that part of my job. It's all I need."

Motivated by the pure love of his job, Lundskow reflects on a core concept he learned early on his career.

"There is a difference between an E-9 and a chief," he explains. "An E-9 is a pay grade and a given rank. Being a chief is a privilege. I represent, work with and support the enlisted corps; they are my brethren. I firmly believe if you take care of your people, they will take care of the job."

Senior Airman Domingo Pena, a crew chief in the 459th AMXS, echoes the chief's words from an Airmen's perspective.

"The chief is an outstanding leader," said Pena. "He is very educated and his vast experience allows him to be a leader to everyone he encounters. He has gone above and beyond to help me with certain things and for that, I will always be grateful. I hate to see him go, and wish him the best because he truly does deserve it."

During his retirement ceremony, Col. Maureen Banavige, commander of the 459th Maintenance Group, shared her feelings on Lundskow's time at the 459th ARW.

"Chief Lundskow has a unique ability to find simplicity in complex situations, and bring it all back to proper focus - mission and people" said Banavige. "If I could sum up Chief Lundskow's legacy here in the 459th MXG, I would borrow words from poet Maya Angelou. As time passes and memories fade, 'they may not remember what you said or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.' Chief Lundskow made everyone he worked with feel valued, respected and stand a little taller."

As Lundskow takes to the podium for his final words as chief in the Air Force Reserve, he takes a deep breath and pauses as the hangar full of people are brought to their feet in a standing ovation.

"It has been an honor and privilege to serve here and be a part of this great Air Force," said Lundskow. "This hasn't been my career; it has been our career and it represents us. Thank you for having the confidence in me to serve you and this country."