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Retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Bob Gaylor recently visited RAF Mildenhall to give a motivational speech to hundreds of airmen.

The address at the 100th Air Refueling Wing was one of many for the 76-year-old, twice-retired Iowa native who speaks at dozens of Air Force bases worldwide each year. Stars and Stripes caught up with Gaylor shortly after his address to a standing- room-only crowd at the Hardstand Fitness Center.

You left the Air Force in 1979 as the fifth chief master sergeant of the Air Force. The world has changed tremendously since then, but how has the Air Force changed? Two things: better training and better technology. You see it across the board. Technology replaces people, but that’s not always a good thing.

Sounds like you have some concerns the Air Force is possibly too reliant on technology? I’m a human guy. My VCR blinks “12:00” and I don’t know how to stop it, but I know what motivates humans. We have to continue to realize that the Air Force’s most important asset is its people, and they are not machines. We need to maintain the balance between high-tech and high-touch.

So, how does the Air Force Smart Ops 21 (a process-improvement program) take you then? There’s obviously nothing wrong with trying to be more efficient, but we have to be careful not to stretch ourselves too thin. You can get to the point where you can’t do more with less. I’ve always been of the belief that when you’re engaged in a conflict, you need to increase your resources.

What have you been doing since you left the Air Force? I spent 16 years at USAA (insurance company) as a leadership trainer. I retired from there in 1995 and have been speaking at Air Force bases since. This is my 16th base this year and I did 27 last year. I love it. I love getting out with today’s airmen.

You live in San Antonio, but you get to travel around the world and interact with the Air Force. Do you see a disconnect between the military and the civilians tucked away at home? The American people are emotionally behind the troops, but, no, I don’t see the support I saw in World War II. There’s still more of a focus on who’s winning on “American Idol” than the state of the military.

You’re 76 years old, but still have tons of energy and enthusiasm. What’s your advice for a long and fruitful life? You need to make the three right investments. First, physical fitness. You have to take care of your body. Then you have to focus on financial stability. Have systematic savings and a good system for you and your family. And finally education. You have to invest in education to advance.


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