This week I had the rare privilege of seeing a friend and counterpart retire after 36 years of service in the U.S. Air Force. Chief Master Sgt. Kirk Stewart retired effective July 25. He left with 36 years of knowledge and experience.
The loss of such an irreplaceable trove of knowledge would certainly handicap the Air Force for years to come if it were not for Stewart’s dedication to mentoring his team of Airmen. Although we will all miss working alongside this man, I doubt, the team he leaves behind will struggle to meet the mission. The planes will fly and repairs will be made without missing a beat.
How is it that in a single event we can lose such an asset yet the mission does not falter? The answer is simple: succession planning and mentoring. Each of us, whether we are junior enlisted Airmen, Non-commissioned officers or even the highest grade officer are indebted to the Air Force, and the nation, for growing us into the leaders we are today.
At some point, each of us will depart the service, whether through retirement or separation. Our knowledge and experience will be gone and the team we each leave behind will have to manage without the sergeants, chiefs and officers who led for a short time. The mission and the Air Force will go on.
The truest measure of our success and effectiveness is in the leaders we leave behind. Readiness numbers, inspection results or any other static measurement can only measure the past and present. Our truest measure of success is, and should be, in the Airmen that follow. I urge each of you to be like Stewart, make the leaders that will follow you successful. You may never know the impact you may have on a future chief or chief of staff. Thank you, Stewart, for all you have done for Team Travis, the USAF and our nation.