TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Achieving the rank of chief master sergeant is quite the accomplishment in the Air Force, these top enlisted leaders serve as liaisons between the enlisted and officer force relating to readiness, welfare and effective utilization of enlisted forces.
Craig Deatherage retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant in 2010 after serving for over 20 years. During his service, he was the command chief for the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base. He would later move to Yokota Air Base, Japan before his retirement.
Deatherage’s main role at Tyndall was to, through communication with the enlisted corps, ensure the commander’s policies were known and understood, and significant problems, concerns and issues are elevated to senior leadership. As a chief he carried with him years of experience in leading troops and getting the Air Force mission done.
“I spent 9 years as a chief and learned a lot in that time,” said Deatherage. “As a chief your word matters and the chances to make a difference for the better are tremendous. If you’re willing to own your decisions and follow them through you can really do some good.”
Before coming to Tyndall, he was the commandant of Gunter Non-Commissioned Officer Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. There he was in charge of training of the technical sergeants in their next level of profession military education. He ensured they were taught advanced leadership techniques and policies.
“One of my favorite jobs I ever had was the commandant of Gunter NCO Academy,” said Deatherage. “I felt like a square peg in a square hole. It was a great experience for me and I loved the job and would have stayed longer if they had let me.”
Deatherage was raised in Newton, Iowa and entered the Air Force in 1982. He is a career enlisted aviator with more than 3,900 hours total flying time in the E-3A/B/C and the E-8A/C. He flew over 200 combat flying hours during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom and served in various combat leadership roles including deployed first sergeant in Operation Allied Force, and squadron superintendent during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I originally joined the Air Force because it provided me with a sense of purpose and belonging,” Deatherage said. “The Air Force became a family for me very fast. The first time I ever got on a plane was when I went to basic training so for me the Air Force offered a lot of personal development. It allowed me to go to both Iceland and Saudi Arabia within the first few years of my enlistment. Saudi Arabia was such a different experience for a kid from Iowa to see.”
After his retirement, Deatherage’s passion for the military and for those who serve did not wane. He started a job as the military and Veterans Affairs liaison for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida’s Second District. Then, in 2015, he became the chief operations deputy for the Bay County supervisor of elections.
“The experience and skills I received from the Air Force equipped me for my current job working for Congressman Neal Dunn,” said Deatherage. “As a chief you have to be accessible to the Airmen while also being comfortable around general officers. This full spectrum experience is useful to have when working for a member of Congress.”
Deatherage gave his final thoughts on what the Air Force meant to him and what it means to be an effective leader.
“The Air Force gave me so much more than I ever dreamed of in my first 23 years of life,” Deatherage said. “The Air Force rounded me out as a person and made me complete, it made me understand that the notion of service before self is a critical part of life. The Air Force allowed me to live that out and instill it into my daughters. I met my wife in technical training, so it even gave me a beautiful wife with who I’ve been married to for almost 36 years. Ultimately it taught me that real leadership is the ability to not only motivate your Airmen, but to inspire them. If you’re able to remind your troops why they joined the service, then you can reconnect them with that sense of purpose and mission. To me that is when a leader is truly great.”