By Airman 1st Class Cortney Paxton, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 24, 2012
MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --
After 27 years wearing an Air Force uniform, Chief Master Sgt. Charles Anderson, 341st Missile Wing command chief, will be hanging it up for good following his retirement ceremony July 20.
"More than half my life I've done this and have been a part of something bigger than myself," he said. "I truly love it so it is kind of bitter sweet, but it's time."
Although retirement is a first for Anderson, his position as command chief is not as he served as command chief for both the 633rd Air Base Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., and Detachment 11 of the 9th Air Force at Langley Air Force Base, Va., prior to coming to Malmstrom. But command chief isn't the only position he's held. Anderson has held superintendant positions for the 319th Mission Support Group at Grand Forks AFB, N.D.; 380th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates; the Information Systems Flight and Network Control Center, 366th Communications Squadron, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; and Information Systems Flight, 366th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
He's also held positions including NCO in charge, team chief and first sergeant as well as his first assignment as a special actions clerk for the 1979th Communications Squadron and 48th Mission Support Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.
"If I had to say career-wise [which assignment had] the biggest impact, it would probably be when I was in Mountain Home [AFB], Idaho," the chief said. "I had just retrained out of personnel into communications and got to the base in July, 2001. September 11 happened and I deployed out the door by September 26 of that year to go to Al Udeid Air Base, [Qatar], to build an air base from the ground up. It was a complete bare base at the time."
As the Bronx, N.Y., native climbed in Air Force ranks, he landed assignments in places all around the world, including the Netherlands, Korea, and Guam as well as several U.S. states like Hawaii, Florida and Mississippi. However, picking a favorite assignment was out of the question.
"I was stationed at Anderson Air Force Base, [Guam], and that's where I met my wife," he said. "We were both lifeguards on Tarague Beach and that was 17 years ago. However, it's hard to put a ribbon on the best assignment. Each one of them has been unique in its own way and I have tons of memories. I don't have just one favorite assignment."
His positions here at Malmstrom as well as in Hawaii and Grand Forks AFB, N.D, are among the top of Anderson's favorite assignments based on "communities, relationships, quality of life, experiences and just great people and missions," he said.
Although the nuclear mission that the Airmen at Malmstrom uphold every day is one that Anderson had little introduction to prior to being assigned as the command chief of Wing One, it was a mission he was proud to finish his Air Force career on.
"I never expected to do anything like this," he said. "Here there's a nuclear mission; constantly defending and deterring 24/7, 365 - it's humbling and not enough people know about it. The Airmen here at Malmstrom are just outstanding. They are dedicated, they give 110 percent all the time to the mission, to the base, to their families and the way they operate and work together is phenomenal. It is completely a total force team that's here at Malmstrom."
Following his retirement, Anderson plans to follow a job offer to a small town with good quality of life and settle down with his wife, Wendy, and six children; Gabsy, 16; Carissa, 15; Chip, 12; Pete, 9; Scott, 6, and Kate, 3.
"My family has been my biggest inspiration to continue on and retire," he said. "They've been with me for the last 17 years and whether I was not in my favorite job in the world or whether I was in the best job of my entire career, they always stood by my side and never said no in any way to support me. They always enabled me to do all I could do and more than I thought I could ever do."
But a change - especially such a substantial change in lifestyle - won't come without challenges; however, Anderson and his family have prepared for these challenges.
"I have to work for at least another 20 years or so to put [our children] through college," he said. "I hear the pace of life is a bit slower outside of the military, so I think that will be my biggest challenge -adjusting to the pace and getting familiar to what life is like outside of the military. [My family] is sad, but they understand. They're excited about having a more permanent life somewhere else because that has to happen with retirement."
With 27 years of Air Force service, the chief and his family are ready to find their place in the civilian world. Although his retirement marks the end of a career just shy of three decades, it's the beginning of a whole new life he and his family are excited to experience.
He will not soon forget his time in the Air Force and on Malmstrom Air Force Base, but he leaves with a few words for the Airmen stationed here:
"I'd just like to say thank you for the opportunity to serve. I started out with what I thought would be four years and it ended up being 27. Take the bull by the horns and set yourself some goals - don't let anything get in your way. Just move forward, make yourself matter and have a good time while you're living this experience."