First rescue wing command chief signs off

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Cathleen Snow
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
Signing off as the first 920th Rescue Wing command chief is Chief Master Sgt. Michael Schooley (Ret.). A man whose personality matches his hearty stereotypical radio announcer's voice -- robust, hearty and mellifluous.
Command Chief Schooley, the first man to represent the combat enlisted Airman here at the wing's inception, April 1, 2003, stood before a 920th audience May 7 at the Base Theater as he was awarded the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal for the first time during his 34-year career.
Illustrative of his selfless dedication to the enlisted force, "It tends to happen that way," said Chief Schooley, "when you are always taking care of everyone else as the silent leader you tend not to get recognized."
But recognition was not his goal he said. He sought to grow with the wing and set a precedent. "Being first there is a lot of new ground to break, there is no particular precedent or style on how you approach the job so you are more careful when navigating uncharted territory," he said.
The Base Theater was filled with a ceremonial roar as wing members showed their approval for the highest ranking enlisted man by displaying a hearty send off as they cheered, clapped and gave the chief a standing ovation.
Chief Schooley brought a depth of job experience to the command chief position. He served as the 920th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant for seven years prior to becoming the wing command chief. And with three deployments to Kuwait and one to Iraq under his belt during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Chief Schooley enriched his credentials as a caretaker.
But it wasn't just serving Airmen during the height of the Global War on Terrorism that rendered his popularity. He said the people made him. "It's always about the people. If you take care of your people they'll take care of the mission."
One of the highlights during his tenure as command chief was during one commander's call where a whole group of 920th personnel who deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom received the Bronze Star. It really highlighted the importance of trying to complete the mission when in harm's way, said Chief Schooley.
Against the newest addition to his medals, Chief Schooley is a decorated veteran and has earned his share of ribbons and medals, but the departing command chief said his greatest reward was the position itself.
"Everybody always has a good to themselves at the highest level…but people are what made it to where I was proud to serve. You are a great group of people focusing on the mission of rescue. I can't imagine working with a greater group than what I did with the 920th Rescue Wing," he said.
Although signing off from a long, proud, military career, Chief Schooley will remain in the area working his civilian job running the aircraft center for Southeast Aerospace Inc. at Melbourne International Airport.
"It's been a great ride and I'm sure going to miss it," he said.