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Air Force bids farewell to Chief McKinley, hails Chief Roy

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office
After more than 30 years of service, the Air Force's top enlisted leader bade farewell to fellow Airmen in a June 30 ceremony here as a new Airman became the 16th chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

Along the manicured ceremonial lawn, hundreds of spectators cheered the service of Chief Master Sgt. Rodney J. McKinley, who retired as the 15th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, and welcomed the Air Force's new No. 1 enlisted Airman, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy.

Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley gave introductory remarks and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz presented Chief McKinley with the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service in a position of great responsibility.

"We'll miss your infectious drive and unwavering patriotism," Secretary Donley said to Chief McKinley. "Your legacy of leadership lives on in the thousands of men and women whose lives you've touched."

General Schwartz expressed his gratitude for Chief McKinley's distinctive brand of care and attention to Airmen, particularly wounded warriors.

"Chief McKinley was strengthened by his conviction and unconditional commitment to Airmen. Through it all, he's lent a sympathetic ear and compassionate heart," General Schwartz said.

The outgoing chief shared stories of a humble beginning as a "small-town boy" whose father drove him and two of his friends to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Cincinnati. His airplane flight to Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, would be his first.

"I didn't fully understand the significance of how my life was changing. The Vietnam War was winding down and it was still unpopular to wear a military uniform," Chief McKinley said.

The chief recalled that Airmen wore "1505" khakis and, for fitness, completed the 1.5-mile run in combat boots known as chukkas.

"It's amazing how some things never change," Chief McKinley said with a smile. "Uniforms are still a hot subject, and so are the boots!"

The chief's light-hearted remarks turned to solemn reflection, as he cited 42 Airmen killed in action and 251 Airmen wounded during his three-year tenure as chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

Of fallen Airmen, he said, "I carry each one of their names with me, and always will. I also mourn their loss. They were my Airmen."

In pledging support for Airmen wounded warriors, Chief McKinley acknowledged and addressed Tech. Sgts. Israel Del Toro and Matt Slaydon, two severely-injured Airmen, who were in attendance.

"We are dedicated to taking care of you and your family," he said. "Your courage and dedication in spite of your injuries continues to inspire us all."

Chief McKinley left no doubt about what meant the most to him during his Air Force journey.

"It isn't the awards, the decorations, or the rank that means the most to me; it's the people ... the relationships I've experienced along the way," the chief said.

In a final show of thanks, the Air Force Band and Honor Guard demonstrated their drill proficiency and readiness with a pass and review. Although it is customary for the senior officer to receive the troop formation, General Schwartz deferred the honor to Chief McKinley in recognition of his faithful, dedicated service.

General Schwartz and Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the chief's former commander at U.S. Pacific Command, presented Chief Roy with a new service dress coat and hat representing his formal appointment as chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

A Monroe, Mich., native, Chief Roy shared his enthusiasm about taking on the new challenges for which the position calls.

"As the voice of the enlisted, my priorities will reflect the Air Force's priorities," Chief Roy said. "I will take great personal responsibility in advising Air Force senior leadership on the readiness, proper utilization, welfare and progress of our stellar enlisted force. I look forward to traveling across the world to look every Airman in the eye to tell them how proud I am they have chosen the United States Air Force as a profession."

Chief Roy did not hesitate to acknowledge Chief McKinley's contributions to the service.

"I am truly humbled and honored to follow Chief McKinley as the chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Chief Roy said. "The Air Force is a better service for having had him as our top enlisted leader."