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'Chief Mack has retired, can I help you?’

October 4, 2009 -- When I first arrived back at the 182nd Airlift Wing after basic training and technical school, I reported for duty as the new information manager for the mission support flight. With two stripes on my sleeve, I sat in awe and wonder at the magnitude of three stripes up and five stripes down on the sleeve of a five foot five inch woman, who carried herself and her integrity as if she were ten foot tall. It was beyond comprehension to this green airman how her experience and knowledge got her to the majestic vision of the Chief Master Sergeant Chevron. My greenness and lack of experiences was still being controlled by the hard learned indoctrination of military etiquette learned by basic training. This was someone to be respected, revered, and by all means come to full attention to with the upmost amount of military bearing.
To some extent when I first knocked on her door, basic training overly prepared me to believe there was an imaginary barrier that separated our chevrons by a distance similar to that of the drill instructor and trainee. But then Chief Carrie Mack began to speak and said "Hi bay bay...what do you n need?" It's then that I began to realize that her welcoming smile and her deep dark eyed stare was meant to consul and understood the trepidation felt by a young inexperienced airman. What was more amazing than the spectacle of that first interaction is the realization of watching her over the years, that she sincerely and without judgment treated all the new troops who entered into customer service in the same way.
It is a skill and natural ability that will serve her well now that she has retired after 38 years, 11 months and three days to begin fulltime work in her multiple ministries associated with the Heaven's View Christian Church. There she will be helping to coordinate volunteer work in community development, job programs, incarceration reclamation, and more. Additionally she will continue to work with the Illinois Department of Aging working with senior citizens in Peoria's retirement communities. And if that were not enough, she also has intentions of going back to school to complete her bachelor's degree.
"I would like to go back to school. I saw were an 80 year old woman achieved her degree," said Mack who went on to explain how the woman's pursuit of her bachelors is inspiring to her. "I would like to know what going back to school that would be like."
Meeting new challenges and finding accomplishment is nothing new to Chief Mack, who became the first African American female Chief Master Sergeant assigned to the Air National Guard in 1988. Her climb to this first began in 1970 when she enlisted in the Air Force Reserves and was assigned to the 930th Medical Service Squadron, O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois as a Stenographic Specialist and served in the unit until it was disbanded in 1972.
In 1972, she enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard and was assigned to the 182d Tactical Air Support Group as an Administrative Specialist and Switchboard Operator. In 1975, she transferred to Military Personnel Flight as an Enlistment and Separations Clerk. She was the first African American female assigned to the 182d Tactical Air Support Group.
And then in 1977, she was the only female in her class attending the Non-Commission Officer Academy and in 1985 she was selected as the Non-Commissioned Officer, Outstanding Airman of the Year for the Air National Guard.
By 1985 word was spread around the Air National Guard of her ability and she was recognized for her outstanding professional skill, leadership, and superior knowledge in Personnel Support by being selected to complete a tour at the Air National Guard Readiness Center. During her tenure at the Readiness Center, the team was awarded the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award. In 1987, she returned to the 182d Mission Support Flight and was assigned as the Superintendent.
Chief Mack has been a true inspiration and role model for all women in the military and has paved the way for the women of the Air Force and Air National Guard. During her long and distinguished career, she has consistently climbed over, walked around or shattered the barriers placed in her way. One women inspired by her procession to professionalism is her own commander Lt. Col. Stephanie Roth.
"Chief Master Sgt. Mack has a gift of identifying the needs people have even before they know they have a need and she ensures those needs are taken care of before she takes care of her personal needs. She has always been dedicated to the people and the mission of the 182d Airlift Wing. In her view, the mission always comes first," said Roth adding that her service before self attitude only adds to her prowess as a patriot. "She is proud to be a member of the 182d Airlift Wing and is a true patriot at heart. She has demonstrated this time and time again when she has volunteered numerous personal hours and holidays to represent the 182d Airlift Wing as a Color Guard member and assist with other important wing-wide and community events."
Chief Mack emphasized that the patriotism she witnessed in the unity of the 182nd Airlift Wing helped carry her through her long a storied military career.
"The military is an honorable career. And the work we do here goes above and beyond the UTA and the training that we take for granted. Never forget what you do to serve one nation under god," said Mack. "I am always amazed at the resilience of the 182nd. We always rise to the occasion. While I have not always enjoyed the journey, there has always been joy found for me in the end of every challenging moment."
Chief Mack added that the experience of comradely work make it hard to move on her career.
"I will miss the ownership of my babies. I've watch them grow up and mature. And I am amazed at the caliber of what they become. I have been blessed to watch them from being greener than green move from newbie to retiree and everything in-between," said Mack.
It is a sentiment that I am now just becoming able to understand and comprehend. As I am not even a third of the way into Chief Mack's career timeline, green still applies as a descriptor of my experience in relationship to hers. Her heritage of caring has create a level of excellence that all should strive to meet. We are better airman for being led by her example. And regardless of how many stripes or what color metal is on your shoulder, she has left behind the attainable challenge of 'service before self' that is well described by Lt. Col. Roth.
"Throughout CMSgt Mack's 39 years of service, she has taught each and every one of us something. It is our goal to make her proud and carry on the mission with the same dedication she has shown all these years," said Roth.