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4th AF's top enlisted leader visits 940th ARW during BRAC

  • Published
  • By Stacey Knott
  • 940th ARW
The top enlisted leader from the Air Force Reserve's 4th Air Force at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. visited here March 11, 2008.

Chief Master Sgt. Patricia Thornton, 4th AF Command Chief, came to see the 940th Air Refueling Wing's Reservists as they go through a Base Realignment and Closure Commission directed mission change.

"I'm checking to ensure everything is going well and that we're fulfilling the needs of the unit," Chief Thornton said. "BRAC is an emotional issue, and it's imperative that leadership shows that we care. I'm here to listen and see what is going on. It's an opportunity to share."

In November 2005, President George Bush and Congress accepted most of the 2005 BRAC recommendations for the U.S. Air Force. This included changing the 940th's mission from aerial refueling, a 31-year tradition, to reconnaissance and command and control.

By law, the unit's eight KC-135 Stratotankers must be transferred to Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. by Sept. 30, 2008. The last two jets are scheduled to leave during a ceremony here May 3. The 940th will officially change missions and commanders during another ceremony in September, at which time the unit will transfer under the 10th Air Force.

Chief Thornton plans to actively engage with the soon-to-be-named 10th AF Command Chief, and help facilitate the transition of the gained mission and the numbered air force.

"We want the 940th's people to see the faces of leadership, have a chance to air their concerns, and visually see the leadership hand off; it's very important. This is the twilight of one mission, and the dawn of another" the chief said.

Chief Thornton speaks from experience when it comes to BRAC. She was a technical sergeant at Norton AFB, Calif., located east of Los Angeles, when the base was closed by the Department of Defense. She left Norton in 1992 to be a flight engineer on another aircraft at Travis AFB.

"I made a decision to do something different," Chief Thornton said. "I still feel emotion and nostalgia for Norton. There's a lot of emotion involved in BRAC. It's a grief process, and very similar to losing someone close to you. There's a lot of uncertainty, but it's an opportunity to do something different and not stick your head in the sand. Look for other opportunities; that's what I did."

The chief knows that it's easy to get distracted by BRAC and to lose focus on business, but that's not what she found at Beale.

"They've done an excellent job dealing with emotion," the command chief said. "You have a huge support system here with all these layers of support. It's impressive to me, all of the positive things happening, because you have so much to do."

She attributes the unit's excellent morale to the leadership being proactive and taking care of business.

"The camaraderie is very tangible here," she said. "It's evident why morale is good. Your leaders are taking care of their people. That's their focus. Adversity helps bring you closer together too," she noted.

Chief Thornton plans to remain actively engaged in the 940th's BRAC process and intends to return during the summer and in September for the ceremony.