It was an emotional afternoon as the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing bid farewell to their Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant Mark A. Redden, after 30 years of faithful and dedicated service.
Despite the demanding process of retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Chief Redden took a few moments to reflect on his 30-year career as an Airman.
He joined the Air Force in 1987 from Redding, Calif., in search of a steady paycheck and an education, but he stayed because of the Airmen.
“After serving just a few years, I realized the Air Force had become my family,” the chief recalled. “There is an unmistakable bond that forms when you are a part of the profession of arms, and it amazes me to see our Airmen work together to get the job done, no matter what challenges they face.”
Through a career spanning three decades, Redden became a KC-135 tanker inflight refueling operator, was competitively selected to crossflow into the KC-10 Extender aircraft, worked in strategy and tanker planning, handpicked to be the Command Inflight Refueling Training Manager for the KC-10, served as a Squadron Chief Enlisted Manager, Operations Group Superintendent and ultimately the Command Chief for the 521 AMOW. He filled roles such as supervisor, manager and leader, earned his bachelor’s degree, and raised a family, whom he credits with having the biggest impact on his military career.
“My family has had a foundational impact on my life and my career. My mother and father raised me with the same values of selfless service, integrity, and excellence that our Air Force demands of its Airmen,” Redden explained. “My wife Paula offered unwavering support despite the long hours, over 20 deployments, and extensive TDYs. Our three daughters, Cassandra, Gabrielle, and Elizabeth, have followed us around the world, adapting to new bases and new cultures with an amazing resiliency. I would not have made it 30 years without their support.”
During the ceremony, Col. Thomas M. Cooper, 521 AMOW commander and officiating officer, had the challenge of highlighting an illustrious 30-year career in only 30 minutes. Setting the stage for his review of Chief Redden’s outstanding accomplishments, Cooper said, “Chief Redden is a warrior, a leader, and a true Airman. He is a successful husband and father of three beautiful and smart young ladies. He is a career in-flight refueling operator with more than 6,000 flight hours, in two different aircraft. He is a citizen that chose to serve, and served so well he successfully made it through every enlisted rank in the Air Force. He is a highly decorated Air Force hero who has been a volunteer in every conflict, humanitarian response, and show of force the United States has engaged in while on active duty and this is the man we are going to talk about today.”
Although he has enjoyed every aspect of his 30-year career, Chief Redden didn’t enlist with the goal of becoming a chief master sergeant.
“With each promotion, it was interesting to see how my sphere of influence increased,” Redden said. “It was as a senior master sergeant that I realized attaining the rank of chief would give me the largest impact on our Airmen and how we accomplish our mission.”
As he transitions into civilian life, Redden has one very simple piece of advice for his brothers and sisters in arms.
“Model yourself after people you admire, and learn from those you don’t,” said the chief. “Emulate the traits and actions of those you look up to, but don’t forget how it felt when you had negative experiences. At the end of the day, it’s about taking care of the Airmen. They are counting on you!”