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Former CMSAF Benken visits base

by Tech. Sgt. Chris Miller
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Chisholm
The 12th CMSAF shares experiences with MacDill airmen on the way to MacDill from the airport.

The 12th chief master sergeant of the Air Force stopped by MacDill last week to take part in the annual Chief's Induction Ceremony. While here he visited the base, attended the 6th Air Mobility Wing change of command and even had time to take in a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game.

Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Eric Benken said things certainly have changed at MacDill since the last time he was here almost four years ago.

"When I first came down here, I remember the wing commander and I drove around the base, and he showed me all the infrastructure issues MacDill had - and there were quite a few," said Benken.

"The base had been on the Base Realignment and Closure list, neglected, and they had just moved the KC-135 mission here from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. We saw building after building that was in bad shape."

But, he said, when he and Chief Master Sgt. Lew Monroe, 6th AMW command chief, went around last Thursday, they talked about the more than $100 million construction projects ongoing right now.

"It's great to see the quality of life continue to improve," said Benken. As for the future of the enlisted force, Benken said he sees a lot of good things on the horizon. He mentioned they are working hard on professional development.

"That's one thing we did during my tenure, get professional development seminars for staff sergeants going to bases," said Benken. Then,once NCOs got a line number for master, we wanted to give them more professional development."

He said now they're going to take that a step farther and, if you want to be a senior or chief later on down the road, you will have to go outside your normal career field and become a first sergeant, MTI, recruiter, something to give you a broader perspective of the Air Force.

"I think that is a great direction they're taking," said Benken. "They are looking at this right now. It sets you up to be a better senior or chief."

Also for the enlisted force, the high-year tenure has changed, and the chief said that's a good thing.

"I think the high-year tenure changes are great," said Benken. "High-year tenure is a force-management tool and constantly looked at. You don't want to change unless you have to because it has a large, long-term effect on the force. You have to make sure it's the right time. With the situation we have right now, the war on terrorism and such, we need to keep people who want to stay. We need their experiences and skills, and we need to hang onto them as long as we can."

With his position as Air Force programs manager for USAA, the chief still gets to travel with the Air Force and maintain his ties with the military.

"I was looking to do something where it would be benefiting the people that I like the best, the military," he said.

"So I work for a company whose motto is 'We know what it means to serve.' I have the best of both worlds."

He said it was great to be back at MacDill. Florida holds a special place, because his wife is from Ft. Walton Beach.

Benken concluded his visit to MacDill by saying, "It's great to see the changes that are taking place here. I don't think there's a better time to be in the United States Air Force. "For the sake of this world, for the sake of this country and the men and women who are serving today, I couldn't be more proud of what they're able to do and the things they endure to keep this country safe. I wish I were back in uniform




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