440th Airlift Wing chief retires after 33 years of service
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
In 1980, a 17-year-old high school student was wondering what to do with his life and had a chance to shadow several workers, including an Air Force recruiter.
Jeffrey S. Roeder decided the Air Force might be as promising as anything else on the horizon. A brochure showing an airman with a beret and rifle lured him into the security field, the equivalent of Army military police. He was not even old enough to enlist without getting his parents' signatures.
On March 2, Roeder retired from the Air Force Reserve, 33 years later, as the command chief master sergeant of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg's Pope Field.
Roeder had held the wing's top enlisted position since July 2009.
"More than anything else, he cares about airmen," said Brig. Gen. Norman Ham, commander of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg's Pope Field.
In addition to taking care of airmen, Roeder attended as many Air Force graduations and ceremonies and events in the neighboring civilian community as possible, Ham said.
In 1980, Roeder listed his preferences for duty sites in states surrounding his native Wisconsin. The Air Force sent him to Germany for three years.
He found himself in Egypt providing security for an AWACS airplane monitoring developments after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.
The Midwestern boy found himself coping with Middle East heat and warnings about not straying from a path and stepping on ancient land mines placed by the Russians.
Then he did a stint with the 44th Missile Support Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
After leaving active duty in 1984, he found himself longing for military life and joined the Air Force Reserve's 440th Airlift Wing in Milwaukee.
He worked his way up through the enlisted ranks and was eyeing retirement after 20 years when he was approached about being a first sergeant, the top enlisted airman, of the 440th Security Forces Squadron.
Roeder found that he liked taking care of airmen, and the promotions kept coming.
Then along came the 2005 base-realignment announcement that the Air Force Reserve wing and its C-130H airplanes would leave Wisconsin and move to North Carolina. The changes called for the Air Force base to become part of Fort Bragg.
"Rocked my world, I'll tell you," he said.
He decided to make the move and help re-establish the Air Force Reserve wing at Pope Air Force Base, which would become Fort Bragg's Pope Field.
The military decided to send him back to the Middle East as first sergeant of an air expeditionary wing.
He returned from the deployment and applied to be the wing's top enlisted airman in 2009.
"The rest is history, here I am," he said. "I didn't exactly plan my destiny, but I always kept an open mind. I gave 110 percent at everything I did."
Roeder described watching airplanes launch into the night sky during a recent Army-Air Force readiness exercise as artillery boomed in the background.
"Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful place to finish up my military career," he said.