Half-century legacy: three men reflect on lifetime of military service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rachel Ingram
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Following more than 50 years of collective service in the 445th Airlift Wing, three Citizen Airmen reflect on their lives and careers in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Senior Master Sgt. Steve Adams, Senior Master Sgt. Paul Wright, and Master Sgt. David Worrell are all members of the 87th Aerial Port Squadron, and retiring this year.

“It is what you make it,” said Wright. “That’s the best advice I’ve ever been given before a deployment, but in my experience, it rings true for the military as a whole.”

Wright, a former active duty Marine, is retiring in July after 33 years of military service, nearly 20 of which was spent in the 445th. He’s deployed three times, for up to eight straight months.

Adams and Worrell also know a thing or two about deployments -- they’ve each completed multiple tours.

“Being away from home for months is hard,” Adams said. “On some of those deployments, like in Balad, we were out there dodging mortars on the flightline, or working through dust storms.”

During tough tours, it’s even more important to look out for wingmen, they said.

“Look for the people who have a tendency to get off work and disappear to their room to sit alone in the quiet,” said Adams, who served one enlistment in the active-duty Army prior to joining the Air Force Reserve.

The best way to take care of wingmen on a deployment, Wright said, is to give them opportunities to engage with others instead of isolating.

“Some of the younger folks have never been to the theater and experienced a wartime environment,” said Wright. “Little by little, their eggshell starts cracking. You have to watch out for the ones who are isolating and bring them into your circle.”

This also applies to spouses back home, Worrell said, and encouraging family members to connect with other military families can be hugely beneficial.

Inspired by his father, a former 445th AW member, Worrell served the entirety of his 22-year enlistment as a Citizen Airman at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to not sweat the small stuff,” the real estate agent said.

Each member easily recalled instances of standing at attention before a commanding officer’s desk, answering for transgressions or misunderstandings. Looking back on the situations, the men shared their stories with grins on their faces, acknowledging that it wasn’t so funny at the time.

“If you haven’t been in trouble, you haven’t contributed anything,” Wright said.

Worrell agreed, “That’s true. If you haven’t failed a time or two, you aren’t really trying. You’re going nowhere.”

To that end, they’ve encouraged teamwork and full involvement over the years, with an emphasis on including new Airmen.

“I don’t care how small the task is,” said Wright, who plans to volunteer at the VA hospital or USO upon retirement. “Regardless of the situation, get others involved. It’s all about working together.”

The men attribute their success in the military to the connections they forged with other Airmen -- the people who helped them along the way, and the others who they tried to support.

“My dad, who retired from the 445th as a senior master sergeant, once told me, ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get.’ That’s always stuck with me,” Worrell said.