Meet the Chief

Chief Master Sergeant Christopher M. Lantagne, 325th Fighter Wing command chief

Chief Master Sergeant Christopher M. Lantagne, 325th Fighter Wing command chief

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A free-spirited, Sanford, Maine teenager, with no specific goals or aspirations and no funds for college, turned to the Air Force for stability. At the time, he planned to serve four years, get a degree and separate; but, it turned out life had other plans.

"Nothing really went as expected," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Lantagne, 325th Fighter Wing command chief. "I had just started my senior year in high school and joined the Air Force under delayed enlistment. It was another nine months before I would leave for basic military training and even then my mother had to sign for me to join, since I was only 17."

Between high school graduation and leaving for basic training, his rambunctiousness got the best of him. He got into some trouble and lost his driver's license.

"I had a guaranteed job to become a cop," said Lantagne. "Since you have to have a driver's license to be trained on driving a patrol car, that career field was no longer an option for me, nor was my second choice, fire fighter--same reason. Luckily, I scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery placement test and was given some great options by the job counselors at Lackland. I could have had any job I really wanted, but I was young, hard-headed and narrow-minded so I just left it to chance."

But, everything happens for a reason.

"When I was given the little slip of paper with my job title and it read medical administration, I was extremely disappointed," said Lantagne. "I thought, 'admin jobs aren't cool.' It ended up being the best thing that could've happened to me. It was a phenomenal opportunity with a rewarding career path."

Over the years, his outlook and goals began to change.

But, it wasn't until in 2005 during his assignment at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, which is now Joint Base San Antonio, that it really hit him hard.

"I was a master sergeant and had been beaten out for two separate special duty positions, which I admit was a blow to my self-confidence," said Lantagne. "Then I applied for a special duty as the base Career Assistance Advisor and was selected over 13 other applicants. It turned out to be the best job I've ever had, and it allowed me to work directly with the 12th Flying Training Wing Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Steph Page."

He was a perfect model of what I thought a command chief should be, very down to Earth, personable, knowledgeable and willing to do what was right to take care of folks, he added.

"During that time, the Air Force was getting much more heavily involved in ground operations in the Global War on Terror," said Lantagne. "We were having a lot of guys coming back to Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, for rehab with missing limbs, lost eyesight, major burns and so on. Those were things the Air Force hadn't dealt with on large scale before. Chief Page worked tirelessly to take care of all our wounded warriors."

He worked the system and sometimes changed the system to get them on-base housing, handicap accessibility, find ways to keep them on active duty, take care of their families, plug them into community assistance programs and he allowed me to be part of all that, said Lantagne.

"That was when I decided I wanted to be a chief and hopefully someday be even a command chief," said Lantagne. "If you would have asked me 23 years ago, when I first joined, if I ever saw myself making chief, I would have said, no way. Even 15 years ago, I probably would have still said no. It wasn't until I was a technical sergeant that I really even considered making the Air Force a career. Then it wasn't until making master sergeant that I even contemplated making chief or being a command chief."

Within seven years of his assignment to Joint Base San Antonio, Lantagne did become a command chief.

"I had been selected for the command chief list about a year and a half before and already interviewed twice without success," said Lantagne. "Just like with the special duties as a master sergeant, the hiring authority would say, 'Great interview, but I decided to go another way.' It was a bit of a blow to the self-confidence."

Then, while deployed to Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component at Bagram, Afghanistan, Lantagne had his third interview, this one with Col. David Graff, 325th FW commander and Col. Mark O'Laughlin, 325th FW vice commander.

"When Colonel Graff called me a few days later and said, 'we'd like you to come to Tyndall, if you'll have us,'" said Lantagne. "I was elated. Not only do I get to serve as a command chief, but I get to serve the people of the largest fifth generation air dominance wing in the world."

Yet again, everything happens for a reason, explained Chief.

"I look back over my career and can pinpoint those moments where things didn't quite go as I thought I wanted them to," Lantagne said. "But everything that's happened, happened for the best and set me up to be here. I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be. At the end of the day, I believe in the saying, 'leave it better than you found it,' and that's all I can hope to do here at Tyndall. I look forward to making a difference and the payoff for me is the satisfaction of just helping Airmen.

"I encourage Airmen to fully apply themselves to whatever it is they are doing, whether it's learning on the job, career development courses, schoolwork or studying for promotion," added the Chief. "Give 100 percent to whatever you're doing, and keep charging forward. You never know what opportunities will open up to you."