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Command chief moves on, leaves leadership legacy

Command Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gordon, 30th Space Wing, retires at 2 p.m. June 1 in the Pacific Coast Club at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Chief Gordon served at Vandenberg since April 2005, and retires after 27 years and serving in 15 assignments.  (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nicole Roberts)

Command Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gordon, 30th Space Wing, retires at 2 p.m. June 1 in the Pacific Coast Club at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Chief Gordon served at Vandenberg since April 2005, and retires after 27 years and serving in 15 assignments. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nicole Roberts)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Twenty-seven years have passed since Command Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gordon made a promise to serve his country in the Air Force. He entered the delayed entry program May 1, 1980, and his career comes full circle in a ceremony at the Pacific Coast Club ballroom at 2 p.m. today when the 30th Space Wing command chief retired.

Chief Gordon saw a military career for himself as a senior in high school set to graduate in June 1980, he said. His uncle, 30-year veteran retired Chief Master Sgt. William "Jo Jo" Gardon, helped him decide between the Army and the Air Force.

His uncle's outgoing nature and encouragement led Chief Gordon to a career that spanned 15 assignments, including tours in Lakenheath and later Mildenhall, U.K; Mather AFB, Calif.; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey; Kelly AFB, Texas and Hill AFB, Utah.

"The Air Force has provided me a good opportunity to gain confidence and skills and serve my country at the same time," Chief Gordon said--skills he will employ in his new profession as senior managing consultant for a supply team with IBM in Fairfax, Va., where he said he sees himself working for the next 10 years.

"I'm excited to start working there," he said. "It's a new opportunity to continue learning."

Chief Gordon's dedication to service reflects his dedication to learn.

"I found the biggest way for you to grow as a person, to really develop and mature, is to help others," he said.

While he believes in many ways to give back to the community and the nation, Chief Gordon found the military happened to be the one that fit him.

He graduated from Hempstead High School in Long Island, N.Y., and entered Flight 213 at the 3701 Basic Military Training Squadron at Lackland AFB, Texas in August 1980. There, he heard the 3701st TRS motto, "Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way", and it was there the seed of a future leader took root.

After he graduated BMT, the future Chief Gordon took a direct duty assignment as an airman basic reprographics specialist, printing lithographs and flying schedules at his first base, Altus AFB, Okla. He changed career specialties in August 1985 and attended the ground radio maintenance course at Keesler AFB, Miss., by the time he reached the rank of sergeant.

Chief Gordon's leadership shined through when he moved from ground radio technician on aircraft control systems to becoming a supervisor. As a mover and a shaker, he knew what kind of attitude he needed to bring to his performance as a leader.

"You have to come prepared to win," he said. "I always have higher and loftier goals to win. Just showing up isn't enough. There're a lot of people who just show up. The Atlanta Falcons were so excited to be in Super Bowl XXXIII--they made it, and they lost."

It wasn't long before Chief Gordon's potential as a leader began to earn him recognition. Among his many awards, he received the William H. Pitsenbarger "Heroism" Award in 1994, the Lt. General Leo Marquez Award in 1997, the Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award in 1997 and 1998, and named as one of the 12 Outstanding Airman of the Year in 1998.

In his career, he said he found a challenge finding positive mentors, he said, as many supervisors in the early 80's were just coming out of the Vietnam era with a bad taste in their mouths about the military.

But Chief Gordon practiced mentorship to his Airmen. People offered unsolicited testimony of the tremendous mentorship the chief gave as group superintendent, 75th Mission Support Group, and as interim command chief for the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill AFB, Utah, said Brig. Gen. (select) Sharon Dunbar, director of personnel at Air Mobility Command Headquarters, during Chief Gordon's retirement ceremony.

He knew good supervisors made all the difference, showing by example the kind of qualities for effective leadership.

"I had positive mentors who had desires and aspirations to go beyond their current state who took me under their wing," he said.

He met one inspiring leader while serving in the 100th Communications Squadron at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, U.K., in the mid-90's, when he met Command Chief Master Sgt. Vickie Mauldin, command chief master sergeant of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and her husband retired Chief Master Sgt. Denny Mauldin.

"We got some chances at the socials to talk and she would always give good leadership advice," he said. "She was always a good communicator--caring, sincere, personable, trusting."

He has applied those qualities he saw and appreciated in Chief Mauldin to his own leadership strategies, including the importance of education, earning his masters degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma in 2000.

Today, Chief Gordon continues his pursuit of learning. In his office, on the second floor of the 30th Space Wing headquarters building, books on leadership line the shelves.

Among those books is a dark blue, coffee-table book from 1980--his basic training flight yearbook. Inside the front flap, Chief Gordon keeps the yellowed copy of the W-2 form that reflects his first Air Force pay check. Back then, he never thought about making it all the way to chief master sergeant.

"I've never been fixated on the future and said, that is where I want to be at the end of my career," he said. "I wanted to get good at what I was doing, and once I felt that I was at the point where I was confident I could do my current job, then I wanted to go to the next position.

"It was never about rank, it was always about position."

His position now, after a robust career, represents the top 1 percent of the enlisted force. His accomplishment is reflected in the advice he would give to Airmen coming up the ranks or those interested in joining the Air Force.

"Don't ever quit, keep setting goals," he said. "For every person who wants to be successful, there're ten times the number of people who want to help you achieve, you just have to ask them."

Helping the Air Force achieve is what he dedicated his career to.

"I hope that maybe something that I have said may inspire them to want to achieve," Chief Gordon said. "I'm proud that I had a chance work with the most outstanding contractors, civilians, officers and Airmen."