They Walk Among Us
By Chief Master Sgt. Donald E. Felch, Commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center
/ Published August 12, 2011
McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force #5 Robert "Bob" Gaylor landed at McGhee Tyson Airport on August 2, 2011. The Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center hosted the 81-year-old former U.S. Air Force top enlisted leader for a little more than 24 hours as he dined with faculty, toured our host wing, the 134th Air Refueling Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard, and provided a motivational and heartfelt keynote at NCO Academy Class 11-6's Awards Banquet at the Knoxville Convention Center.
On graduation morning, retired Col. Ed Morrisey, first commander of the I. G. Brown Training and Education Center and ANG Order of the Sword recipient, visited Chief Gaylor in Patriot Hall. The two men had first met in 1973, when Chief Gaylor came to McGhee Tyson for graduation ceremonies honoring some of his Airmen and their reunion was joyful.
These iconic leaders spent a few moments "remembering" aloud and in doing so, provided a glimpse into the not-so-distant past when major commands owned their NCO academies, the Air National Guard was often viewed as a separate service, and senior master sergeants routinely attended the academies as students. They talked of buildings now replaced, comrades who have departed, and a program vastly different, but with identical aims: to create confident, professional leaders.
Our I. G. Brown Training and Education Center classroom building bears the name of Col. Ed Morrisey. The Robert D. Gaylor NCO Academy sits at Lackland AFB, Texas, honoring Chief Gaylor. As I watched, and listened last Wednesday morning, the lasting legacy of these two great men came to life in front of me. How fortunate are we to have them walking among us as we execute the vital mission of educating today's expeditionary, warrior leaders? Veterans who witnessed an active air war on the Korean Peninsula, who served through social, military and political turbulence of Vietnam while actively working to professionalize our NCO Corps are here, today, to answer our questions, share their perspectives and encourage us as we seek to continue what they started.
Often, we remember fondly, and with a great deal of justified respect, those who have passed on. We use their quotes, display their photos, and recall their many accomplishments. Names like Levitow, Airey, Lemay, Lankford, Brown and Spruance evoke images of heroism, leadership and vision. Although these leaders have left us much, their legacies are static--they stand as a testament to their lives. Our living legacies however continue to bring us insights although their time in uniform has passed. We must take every opportunity to learn from great leaders like Col. Morrisey and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force #5 Gaylor. Through active feedback from our living legends, we can shape tomorrow. They walk among us!