From the bottom of the bottle to the top of the tier

Story and photo by Airman Larissa Greatwood
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. David Oddo, 603rd Air and Space Operations Center superintendent, mentors an Airman Jan. 24 on Ramstein. Oddo has an open-door policy with his Airmen to provide support and get them additional help if needed.
Chief Master Sgt. David Oddo, 603rd Air and Space Operations Center superintendent, mentors an Airman Jan. 24 on Ramstein. Oddo has an open-door policy with his Airmen to provide support and get them additional help if needed.

In a recent storytelling event, Chief Master Sgt. David Oddo, 603rd Air and Space Operations Center superintendent, was encouraged by the Airmen in his shop to share his story of trials, tribulations, love and family.

Oddo was born into a dysfunctional family, which made his permanent challenges more difficult to manage.

“I was born the youngest of three into a family of alcoholism and drug use,” Oddo said. “My brother was the golden child, my sister the princess and I was more of an inconvenience. I say that because I wasn’t actually the normal child. I had involuntary muscle spasms, couldn’t control my body, was hyperactive and (had obsessive-compulsive disorder). I’m talking OCD like CDO, where the letters are in order like they should be.”

These involuntary afflictions made his life a struggle every day.

“If I touched the door with my left hand, I had to touch it eight times then again with my right hand eight times,” Oddo said. “It really makes things slow going in and out of the house.”

His family and many of his peers didn’t give him sympathy, because they didn’t know what he was going through. At the time, no one really understood his condition, not even doctors.

“In 1970, Tourette syndrome, which is what I have, didn’t exist,” Oddo said. “Back then, the diagnosis was, ‘Well, your kid’s screwed.’”

Though he was struggling to be understood, he wasn’t completely unhappy. He was very caring and compassionate toward others, even though they may not have been the same to him. Slowly but surely, that faded.

“My parents divorced and my mom remarried,” Oddo said. “I thought maybe he’d be an upgrade, but no — the same status quo, another alcoholic. My stepfather loved us, but because he was an alcoholic, I came home to a dark house every day.”

Oddo’s upbringing made him question what love and acceptance was. He was looking for love in all the wrong places, desperately trying to find answers and numb himself from the horrible things that were happening in his life at the time.

“I tried to find love in other ways,” Oddo said. “I started drinking. My brother left for the Navy; he didn’t want to hear from me. My sister left for culinary school. She didn’t want to hear anything either. My mom owned a flower shop, which she drank away, then ended up in rehab. I was young, taking care of my alcoholic mother and closing down her business, while still trying to attend school and hold down a job. I was trying not to lose my mind.”

Though Oddo said he felt he had everything under control at the moment, he knew he had to do something more with his life.

“I joined the Air Force with two goals: don’t go to jail and make master (sergeant),” he said. “The first place they sent me was right up the road from my home town. It was a four-hours on, four-hours off, civilian clothes job. I bought the crappiest clothes I could find that still qualified as work clothes and drank the rest of my paycheck away.”

With an alcohol problem came a complete attitude shift. Oddo slowly changed from a compassionate, positive person to a pessimist.

“At that point, I became the equivalent of Eeyore,” Oddo said. “People would say, ‘This is going to be great!’ I would say, ‘It probably won’t.’”

Through his struggle to deal with his outlook on life, Oddo met his now ex-wife.

“I met my test wife,” Oddo said. “Let’s face it, all exes are test spouses. In retrospect, I never should have met her, because our relationship was built on all of my insecurities and issues that I dealt with. We got married, had our daughter, then she left. (But) not with the baby, thank God.”

Oddo refused to let his children grow up the way he did. He took care of his daughter for three years by himself. Then, he met who he calls “the most miraculous person in the world” — his current wife, Alex.

“We have two kinds of families: one we’re born into and one you grow yourself with your friends, family and loved ones,” he said. “That’s what I did, and that’s what got me sober.”

His wife saw so much in him that he could never see himself. She showed him what it truly means to be loved and accepted. She welcomed him and his daughter with open arms. Her continuous love and support is what he needed to persevere. He soon had answers for his condition.

“At that point, I was diagnosed with Tourette’s,” Oddo said. “Up until that point, I hadn’t been diagnosed. With Tourette’s comes severe (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I am somewhere along the lines of a flashing mirror and a squirrel. I have a head twitch that happens at least 80 to 90 times a day.”

His family was his anchor. They supported him in every aspect, from who he was to his career opportunities in the Air Force. When it came time to promote, he had obstacles to overcome.

“Promotion rates are very slow,” Oddo said. “I went from a fast burner at 12 years to the village idiot who couldn’t get promoted to master sergeant at 16 years. When I tested for master sergeant, there was an issue with the test. I had to wait another year to take it. Two days before I took the test the next year, my director of operations called to tell me I was deploying for 179 days.”

After he put in his time, Oddo came back with yet another obstacle.

“I came back and brought a fabulous party gift: moderate to severe (post-traumatic stress disorder),” Oddo said. “We had to overcome that, and then I finally got to take my promotion test. In about a year and a half I went from a technical sergeant to a senior master sergeant select.”

With his low self-esteem, Oddo felt as though the promotion was out of his reach, he said. He never considered himself an overachiever.

“The day before senior master sergeant results came out my wife said to me, ‘Don’t get upset if you don’t make senior.’ I said, ‘There’s no way,’” Oddo said. “Lo and behold, I got picked out the first time.”

With his new achievement, Oddo had a sense of pride. Things were finally going well.

“I got to Ramstein and was doing great,” he said. “In 2011, I got two annual awards and was selected for chief. August of this past year, I sewed on chief.”

Being a chief master sergeant with a lot of personal experience getting through rough times, Oddo said he feels it is his responsibility to let his Airmen know that he is always there for consultation.

“There is a big difference between an Airman with a problem and an Airman that is a problem,” Oddo said. “They are not the same thing. Our Airmen need us to listen. I have an open-door policy where my Airmen know, no matter what, I will be there and I will find them help.”

Oddo is a true inspiration and shows that though life gets difficult at times, you have to keep fighting.

“Whether I look at the physical aspect of having Tourette’s or at the trials and tribulations my family has gone through, I should not be here today,” Oddo said. “It’s important that I tell you my story, because, despite all odds, here I am. I’m no better or different than any one of you.”