Command Chief offers parting words

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Connie L. Bias
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
After 27 years of active-duty Air Force service, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Sikora, former 92nd Air Refueling Wing command chief, retired June 12 at a well-attended ceremony at Club Fairchild here. The chief is now on his way to Las Vegas, Nev., to spend time with his family, "play golf all summer," finish his Doctorate of Management and teach at an area college.

Chief Sikora has served as Fairchild's command chief since May 2007, his second command chief assignment after 24 years in the Security Forces field. Looking back on the three decades of his military career, the chief shared the following words, advice and accolades.

Education: While Chief Sikora is now well on his way to a PhD, that wasn't always so. He began his educational road with a Community College of the Air Force associate's degree, then stepped up a bachelor's degree in Workforce Education in 2005 and a master's degree in Management and Leadership in 2006. According to the chief, education should be a main focus for young Airmen, and he urges Airmen to start much younger than he did.

"I was a master sergeant before I even got my CCAF degree, and that was only to get promoted. Then I was a chief for a few years when the Chief of Staff of the Air Force at that time said he expects the enlisted force to be the most developed and technologically competent force in the world. I started thinking, 'I'm a chief master sergeant and all I have is an associate's degree. How can I say I'm technically competent and being a good example to my people?' So I got my bachelor's degree. Then a few years ago I got selected to become a command chief. I went to Kirtland, and during my first feedback with the commander, he said, 'Hey, Chief. I like the fact that you've got your bachelor's degree done, but I think you should be a good, positive role model and get your master's done while you're here.' I got my master's degree done in 15 months.

"A man or woman in their 40s with the responsibilities of family, children and job at senior levels doesn't need the added stress of trying to finish a degree. You should do it early on in your 20s. If I could go back in time and change one thing about my career, I would have done just that."

Goals: The second word of advice the Chief has for Airmen is to write down short and long-term goals. This, he said, is another activity he put off as a young enlistee, though he did work overtime to complete his goals later in his career. The simple act of writing and constantly reviewing goals, said the chief, is crucial to moving forward in life.

"When I first came in I was 17 years old. I knew I wanted to go to college, work on my degree, and this and that ... I had goals. But after six months or a year, it was softball season. Then it was flag football season. Then it was bowling or something else. The next thing I knew, all these years had passed and I had done nothing to achieve my goals. I was a master sergeant before the clue light came on.

"I like to tell young Airmen that they all have dreams and goals right now. Make sure you stick to them, write them down and look at them every day so you know that you need to pursue those things constantly. Otherwise they're not going to happen."

Deployment: Chief Sikora cited his fondest professional memories as his deployments, specifically the time he spent deployed with special operations, filling a position for which he was hand-picked because of his exemplary service and leadership.

"I'll remember forever my years in special operations. When I was a technical sergeant I was recruited to be a security advisor, a first-time-ever position in which I was responsible for surveying airfields and leading security forces on deployments throughout all of Europe and Africa during the 90s. If you look back at that time frame, that's when Bosnia, Rwanda, Zaire, Somalia ... all of that happened. I got to spend seven years going to hundreds of obscure airfields surveying and leading security forces on humanitarian missions. I was in Goma and Zaire, and I saw the refugee camps from Rwanda. I was in Rwanda and I saw what those two factions did to each other. I was also very fortunate to lead the first group of security forces to go into Bosnia after the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed, so I saw Sarajevo and Mostar [Herzegovina] and Zagrad [Macedonia] and Kiseljack [Bosnia and Herzegovina] and all the places that were just leveled and looked like old World War II footage. Those are memories I'll take with me forever."

Career highlight: Another memory and career highlight of the chief's is his two years spent as one of the Air Force 12 Outstanding Airmen in 1997 and 1998. Normally a one-year appointment, Chief Sikora was chosen to stay on for one extra year to offer continuity and training to the 1998 team.

"What a great experience. Most people don't realize that it's not an award, it's a program. If you're selected as one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen, you kind of work for the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force for the next year, and for the Air Force Association. You go out and find issues for them, bring the issues back every quarter to a meeting, and you start to help prepare the policy and the changes that the Air Force Association is going to pitch to Congress and on Capitol Hill. The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force helps run the enlisted council and acts as our mentor. I learned so much about the broader, corporate Air Force and how things work from former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Eric Benken, and then his successor Chief Jim [Frederick] Finch."

Words for Team Fairchild

"The men and women of Fairchild will always remain fond to me; this has been a great tour and I've made a great many friends here. You're all working very hard and doing your part to support the war effort. Everything you do turns to gold. Our community loves us. You dominate every inspection you see. If you take a look at our annual award winners for 2007, we had around 150 who won at MAJCOM or Air Force level; it was just amazing. I've been in for 27 years at 14 different assignments, and I've never seen anything like that, ever. That just goes to tell you how great our people are, top to bottom. It's been a real pleasure for me to serve as your command chief."

Words of personal thanks

"Col. Tom Sharpy has been an awesome boss and is a phenomenal leader. He was very supportive of my decision to retire, and I'm looking forward to calling him my friend after I take the uniform off.

"I'm very grateful for the support of my family throughout the course of my career; their support has just meant so much to me. I've got a terrific mother who's been behind me and my two sons all the way. I've got two sons I'm just so very proud of, who have picked up and moved with on a moment's notice. One of them has been to three different high schools, the other is getting ready to start his third, and that's not counting all of the other moves before their high school years. We're all looking forward now to settling down."