MOODY AIR FORCE BASE -- Thursday evening, six of Moody Air Force Base's finest noncommissioned officers were honored for their selection to the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Air Force -- chief master sergeant. In all, Moody had eight senior master sergeants selected for promotion. One individual, Chief Master Sgt. (select) Juan Castro could not attend due to being on emergency leave and another is stationed elsewhere.

The promotion to chief master sergeant, E-9, is the goal of all enlisted personnel who choose to make the Air Force their career. Only one percent of the total Air Force enlisted members have the honor of being called chief master sergeant.

The six men honored during the induction ceremony were: Chief Master Sgt. Dallas Ratliff, 347th Logistics Group, Chief Master Sgt. (select) Michael Buckley, 822nd Security Forces Group, Chief Master Sgt. (Select) Perry Hoffman, 347th Rescue Wing, Chief Master Sgt. (select) James Johnson, 347th Rescue Wing, Chief Master Sgt. (Select) Donald Otey Jr., 347th Comptroller Squadron and Chief Master Sgt. Leslie J. Wiltse, 347th Maintenance Squadron.

Moody also distinguished itself with the high number of senior master sergeants selected. Across the Air Force, only 22 percent of those eligible were chosen for Chief Master Sergeant. Moody exceeded that with 27 percent of its eligible senior master sergeants making the final cut, said Chief Master Sgt. Randy Brown, Wing Command Chief 347th RQW.

The induction ceremony began at 6 p.m. with a social hour, followed by dinner. At the beginning of the dinner the inductees and their wives were announced and passed through a six-man saber detail manned by chief master sergeants serving at Moody. After the dinner, a special event took place when the senior chief master sergeant at Moody and the junior chief master sergeant, who holds the highest promotion line number, were called to the front to cut a cake for the evening's ceremony. The event symbolized the common bond between all chiefs.

The event was also attended by Brig. Gen. John Folkerts, commander, 347th RQW, and other commanders at Moody , but the evening belonged to the inductees.

The guest speaker for the evening was Daniel Keane, chief master sergeant to the commander, Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Va. Keane was making a scheduled visit to the enlisted men at Moody. Keane has more than 27 years in the Air Force and has been a chief master sergeant the last six years.

Keane said he travels throughout the Air Combat Command, whichconsists of about 84,000 personnel. "For 200 to 220 days a year, I'm on the road visiting the enlisted personnel," Keane said. "I did a base visit today at Moody and I was invited to come down and be the guest speaker."

The induction ceremony was special for Keane. He remembers his induction ceremony at Whiteman AFB, Mo., where he and two others were inducted.

"I took my mother to it; it's very special," he said. "It's the highlight and culminating event of an enlisted person's career. It's the introduction and acceptance into the chiefs' group."

Keane also had glowing comments about Moody.

"What I like about Moody best is the warrior attitude," Keane said. "Everything they do is for one reason only, to fight and win America's war. Everything from facilities, physical standards to professionalism is top notch."

Prior to the ceremony, Chief Master Sgt. (select) James Johnson was spending time with his wife Pamela and his father James Johnson. He has more than 23 years in the Air Force and expects to be promoted sometime during September. He and his fellow inductees had been talking about the ceremony and all felt honored to being selected for promotion. He admits at first he was dreading the ceremony, but the for the previous couple of days, the excitement had been growing.

"This has to be the highlight of my career," Johnson said. "It's such a shock."

The event was also a special occasion for the spouses of the inductees. Each of them were recognized before the induction ceremony beg

an. These women have played a very special role in their husbands careers. They have been at the side of their husbands through the good and bad times and remained behind to care for the family when their husbands have been called to serve far away from home.

Pamela Johnson is one such wife. "I'm very proud of him," she said. He's come a long way."

Also present was Johnson's proud father. "He's first-born," Johnson said. "He's worked hard and had a great career. I'm planning on being here when he gets promoted."

The induction ceremony began with the inductees coming forward and standing behind nine ceremonial candles. Each candle signified one of the enlisted grades of the Air Force, beginning with airman basic and ending with chief master sergeant. As each candle was lighted, the inductees were given specific instructions as to the responsibilities and expectations of someone holding the rank of chief master sergeant. One such example was stated before lighting of the fifth candle.

"Chiefs who will make no compromise with wrong; whose ambitions go beyond personal desires."

Prior to lighting the ninth candle, those assembled rose to their feet as the following statement was made.

"The lighting of the ninth candle and the acceptance of their charges by our new chief master sergeants is symbolic to the chiefs' group and officially recognizes your selection for promotion to the highest enlisted grade in the United States Air Force, that of chief master sergeant. The Moody chiefs' group welcomes you into our midst."

The four charges signifying the chief charge were then read to the six inductees. At the completion of the fourth charge, the inductees responded, "We do!"

Only one more thing remained. The inductees raised their right hands and took the chief's oath. As the final words of he oath were completed the ninth candle was lighted, signifying the recognition of Moody's newest chief master sergeants.

Each inductee was called forward and presented with a plaque displaying the Air Force chief's creed, a certificate of induction and a chief's hat.

"When I decided to stay in after my first enlistment, I never thought I'd make it this far," Wiltse said.

For Wiltse and his fellow inductees, the dream has become reality. From this day on, they now bear the distinctive title of "Chief" in the U.S. Air Force.

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext 237.

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