Long time member of the 932nd Airlift Wing, Senior Master Sgt. Todd Wadkins retires in November. He took time out to look back on his military experience with the public affairs staff of the "Gateway Wing".
30 Years in review:
GATEWAY WING: Your ceremony is October 19th in the hangar, then when is your “real” retirement date? "November 11, 2019"
GATEWAY WING: What kind of student were you during the high school years?
WADKINS: I graduated High School, in Blooming Grove, TX. I graduated fourth in my class, did a little bit of everything…lettered in every sport, was on the Math/Science team, President of the Senior class, debate…then enlisted into the military in 1989, putting in 30 years as of October 2019.
GATEWAY WING: How many of those were active duty and how many with the 932nd AW?
WADKINS: Total of just shy of 12 years, 5.5 years initially; schools/deployments/etc. I signed in with the 932nd AW unit in April of 1995; on an interesting side note – then a Senior Airman Don Fleming was sitting in Newcomer’s right beside me.
GATEWAY WING: Were you always thinking “I’m a military-type guy” or what instance / event/ discussion/ person lead you to join the military?
WADKINS: I really did not consider joining the military, until after college while working at a bank…I just called a recruiter and did the ‘thang".
GATEWAY WING: What has been your favorite experience during a weekend drill?
WADKINS: I would have to say the weekend of Gen Miller’s Change of Command, this was as she assumed command of the 932 AW. I had a young troop that I was trying to get promoted. We got the orders stating that he had been promoted, the morning of the Change of Command. Gen. Miller and I planned a ‘reveal’ and as she surprised him with the stripe, I was beaming with pride. That’s when Maj. Gen. Duignan tapped me on the shoulder and said I needed to quit smiling, I was out of uniform…he then produced some Senior Master Sergeant stripes out of his blues pocket. That same day, while over at the MXG building a few of the maintainers took my BDU shirt and sewed some stripes on…the stripes were crooked as heck. I still have one of the sleeves to put in my shadow box.
GATEWAY WING: What was the most challenging problem you ever faced (in outside life or military) and how did RESERVE training help you overcome?
WADKINS: I had a pretty rough year, I deployed, and my wife got laid off, I lost two uncles and my Dad during my deployment…I easily could have fallen into a very dark place. But, people like Don Fleming, John Sims, Terri Ray and Dianne Grapperhaus saw to it that one of them checked up very regularly. It was that Wingman attitude that helped me get through it. It is also what has driven me to try and always be there for a fellow Airman.
GATEWAY WING: Describe the various military jobs you've held over the years and how your Air Force Reserve work/training has paid dividends in life?
WADKINS: My active duty career started as a 2W2 ‘Special Weapons’ technician, it taught me a lot about compliance and following procedures. I joined the Reserves as a medic, although this wasn’t a career path that I wanted to follow, it has served me well as a parent, coach, even a Safety Guy. I worked as the Ground Safety Manager for 16 years, an ART position that set me on a career path. I really enjoyed the work, I needed to know a little bit about everything – what jobs we did as a Wing – Who were the ‘go-to’ people to get the job done – how to present a less than desirable topic in a palatable way. How to read a Standard and be able to interpret it by intent and break it down to how it affected our missions.
GATEWAY WING: What are you going to miss the most about the 932nd Airlift Wing, "The GATEWAY WING” and those early morning drill weekends in Illinois?
I will miss the people…this place has been my ‘work family’ for a long time. There are so many good people in the Wing that I have cried with, laughed with, shared sorrow and joy. I have learned from them, mentored a few and stood in awe at the dedication and work ethic of many.
GATEWAY WING: If you could do one portion of your career over again what would it be?
WADKINS: Nothing, if I did something different…I might have missed something along the way. I am who I am, because of all of the folks/experiences of my career.
GATEWAY WING: Who is the most memorable military person you learned from during your career?
John Snodgrass – who battled cancer and AFRC to come back and serve. He shared his story with us for Wingman Day activities in the base theater. His comment, "Why me" turned into "Why Not Me?", which still encourages me to this day.
GATEWAY WING: What advice could you offer to the younger Airmen?
WADKINS: Work harder and longer than you want to and make that your NORM.
GATEWAY WING: What are your retirement plans with all those free weekends now?
WADKINS: I do plan to play some golf, I’d like to learn how to play the didgeridoo and grow a mullet? Just kidding...