USAFE’s top enlisted leader retires after 31 years of service

by Master Sgt. Gino Mattorano
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

The men and women of U.S. Air Forces in Europe said goodbye to their top enlisted leader in a retirement ceremony here today.

Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow served as the USAFE command chief master
sergeant since January 2008.

Her retirement is the culmination of nearly 31 years of service to the Air Force and the nation.

Chief Master Sgt. David Williamson has been named to replace Chief Derrow and is scheduled to arrive at the end of October. He comes to USAFE from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he is currently serving as the 13th Air Force command chief master sergeant.

Chief Derrow spent a great deal of her time at USAFE focused on the USAFE commander’s priorities — “Partner to Win Today’s Fight, Shape the Future, and Develop and Care for Airmen and their Families.”

Her efforts to assist partner nations and allies with their NCO development efforts directly supported USAFE’s efforts to “Shape the Future.”

“Working with our partner nations will reap huge benefits in the future,” Chief Derrow said. “My counterparts in these countries are very proactive with their NCO development efforts, and we’ve made huge progress already. We’ve had Polish, Romanian and Turkish students attend our NCO Academy, and I see this as a huge success for them and for us. We’re also looking forward to putting some of our students in our partner nation schools, so that as we exchange ideas and best practices, we can work together to make our world safer.”

As the command’s top enlisted leader, Chief Derrow was a constant advocate for programs to Develop and Care for Airmen and their Families. She paid particular attention to programs that helped Airmen and their families deal with the rigors of deployments and the reintegration process.

“I’m extremely proud of the work our people are doing to take care of our Airmen,” Chief Derrow said. “From the marriage enrichment program to deployed spouses activities and Airmen ministry centers, our Air Force community has really stepped up to ensure our Airmen and their families are taken care of. “

Chief Derrow has also been an advocate for preserving enlisted heritage.
“Don’t forget about our enlisted heritage,” she said. “We can’t forget where we came from. We have a great enlisted heritage committee and we have a wonderful Web site where you can sign up and include your enlisted history here at USAFE. It’s very important that we capture the great accomplishments and the things we’re doing to take care of our Air Force and our nation.”

As Chief Derrow prepared to make the transition to civilian life, she had the chance to reflect on her career and her time here in USAFE.

“When Gen. Brady picked me to be his command chief, the first thing we talked about when we were together was that we both felt like we had won the lottery,” she said. “Because this is absolutely the best place to be. In fact, I make all my counterparts mad because I tell them that USAFE is the best command in the Air Force. And I believe that. We take care of our people and our resources, we have superb leadership, and I think there’s no better place to serve your country. “
Chief Derrow said she leaves the Air Force with no regrets, especially since she recruited her replacement.
“My son is a senior Airman (staff sergeant select) in the Air Force and I feel pretty good about that,” she said. “It’s people like him, and all of you, who will step up and keep our Air Force going. The only regret I have is that I have to take my uniform off. I’m going to have to find events to attend so I’ll have an excuse to wear my uniform.”
There is no finer honor than to serve your nation, Chief Derrow said, and she expressed her appreciation for that opportunity and offered thanks to those who continue to serve.
“Only a very small portion of our country actually serves our nation, and I feel very lucky that I got to be a part of that,” she said. “What we do is extremely important and our nation depends on us. I want to thank everyone in uniform, including our joint and coalition partners, because together we are going to make sure we will have a safe and secure world for our Airmen, for our families and for our children.”
Everywhere she goes, Chief Derrow said she always gets asked what it takes to become a chief master sergeant, and she had these final words of advice for those who aspire to achieve their goals.
“First, I tell them not to worry about how to make chief,” she said. “Worry about being the best Airman or NCO you can be. There are really just four things you need to focus on: always do
the best job you can, take care of your family,
support your community and complete your
professional military education and Community College of the Air Force degree. If you do those
four things, you could be sitting in this chair one day.”