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Hard work paid the Price

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Paul Helmig
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“[Success is] up to the individual,” said Chief Master Sgt. Micheal Price, the new command chief of the 182nd Airlift Wing, Peoria, Illinois. “You've got to fight for it, but the only one that's going to limit you is you. If I can make it this far, anybody can make it this far.”

Price hasn’t forgotten where he came from. And he remembers what it took for him to get to where he is now.

The wing’s new command chief grew up in a small town along the Mississippi River with his parents and four siblings. It was there in Oquawka, Illinois, that he learned the meaning of hard work by tending stables and training horses for competitions.

Price said he remembers cleaning stalls every day after school before taking the horses on a 4-mile ride just to prepare for competitions on the weekend. It was the kind of demanding work that was rewarding at the same time.

In 1996, as a junior in high school, Price knew college was not going to be the right path for him after graduation. Instead, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and in 1997 he put small town life behind him to be a carpentry and masonry specialist.

After four years, and at his second duty station in Hohenfels, Germany, Price felt he made a mistake by enlisting in the military and ultimately decided to separate from the Army. But approximately one month after leaving active duty, while working in mine and again in the horse training business, he sensed something was missing.

“Man, I really miss it,” Price remembered thinking. “I miss the camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment and pride.”

So, in 2001, he made the decision to enlist into the Army National Guard as a field artillery specialist with the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Regiment out of Galesburg, Illinois. He spent almost two years there before joining the Illinois Air National Guard in 2003 and fulfilling his original dream of working in the military police field.

Price was initially put on orders at the 182nd Security Forces Squadron after completing technical training and backfilled positions on shifts. But in 2004, he was hired full-time as a military security police specialist before being selected for an Active Guard Reserve position.

Price’s hard work and dedication to the 182nd Security Forces Squadron soon paid off, providing opportunities to hold the positions of flight chief, squad leader, unit deployment manager, government purchase card holder, NCO in charge of plans and programs, antiterrorism officer and operations superintendent. He ultimately was selected to become the chief of Security Forces in March 2016.

Additional personnel retirements and transfers during this time necessitated the huge undertaking of balancing a heavy workload, including his role as manager and simultaneously backfilling several of his previous duty positions.

“But you face challenges of manpower and lack of resources every day,” said Price. “There's always something that throws a wrench in your plan, and you have to adjust like any other squadron does.”

Whether it was state mission taskings, overseas deployments, or a lack of resources, Price handled every challenge thrown his way, but certainly didn’t do it alone. He understood, and still understands, the importance of surrounding himself with subject matter experts to help him along the way.

Working in Security Forces for 19 years, Price had a strong working knowledge of the career field and its mission. However, selection as the wing command chief presented a new challenge: the understanding and knowledge of all career fields at the wing.

“That's why it’s one of my first goals, is just to get out and job shadow somebody in maintenance and in operations and in ASOS, in a mission support group,” said Price, “Just so that I know what they're experiencing and going through so I can provide assistance where it's necessary.”

When 182nd Airlift Wing commander Col. Rusty Ballard sent an email looking for the next wing command chief, Price took some time to reflect on the path he should take. He understood the transition in a service member’s career from taking to giving back.

Price knew that in order to be an effective chief, and now the command chief of the wing, his mindset had to change. His mission and focus had to shift from taking opportunities to giving back to Airmen to help them succeed.

“I didn't apply for the command chief job because of the title, because of a star, because of anything other than wanting to give back,” said Price. “For the last 2.5 years or so I've been a chief, I've been focused on trying to give back because that's what we're supposed to do at this level.”

And Price feels like he has a lot more to give.

He views the position of command chief is charged with the responsibility for assisting with Airman development, career opportunities and empowering Airmen to become future leaders in the Air Force.

Price understands that living out and teaching leadership principles of ownership, empowerment and innovation will provide opportunities, tools and resources for Airmen to excel on their own. He wants the Airmen to know that he will support them, even if they fail, as long as it’s in the pursuit of excellence.

Price admits that he didn’t get to this position by himself. It was a combination of his faith in God, the people that surrounded him and guidance from mentors that elevated him to the level of command chief.

Price said he pushed himself to succeed, took pride in his work, challenged himself and took advantage of the opportunities presented to him. He said that Airmen can achieve all that they want to and make the most of their careers by following the same recipe.

“Pursue every opportunity forwarded to you,” said Price. “If it's a TDY, if it's a deployment, if it's continued education. Growth comes in many different ways. Every trip I've taken has taught me a lesson, good or bad. And it shaped me to be the person I am today.”