DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
For some Airmen, it may have been a small change that doesn’t affect them; but for one Airman at Dyess, it directly impacted her life.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright visited Dyess Air Force Base Aug. 1.
During his all-call with 7th Bomb Wing and 317th Airlift Wing Airmen, he explained how decisions are being made at the Pentagon that affect Airmen.
New policies and changes to existing policies are being reformed with statistics, analysis and feedback from the field, he said.
And these improvements are affecting lives.
Effective in February 2019, high year of tenure extended from eight to 10 years for senior airmen, 15 to 20 years for staff sergeants and 20 to 22 years for technical sergeants.
As a result, Staff Sgt. Lynette Mitchell, 7th Component Maintenance Squadron programs manager, has been able to continue her Air Force career.
Mitchell joined the Air Force after high school in December 2004 and traveled to her first duty station at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. While there, she got married and ultimately lost focus on her own career goals.
“I was involved with someone, and my priority wasn’t my career – it was his career,” Mitchell said. “I fell behind the curve and made decisions that weren’t for me. As a result, it put me behind when testing for staff sergeant and technical sergeant.”
After a divorce and dealing with depression, Mitchell found herself hopeless, but knew she had to have a breakthrough. She began mental health counseling, which helped her cope. Eventually she moved to Dyess, where she gave birth to her son. Throughout her own personal challenges, she also sought opportunities to share her story and enlighten Airmen around her with the knowledge and perseverance to get through life’s challenges.
When she was nearing her high year of tenure, though, she was worried about her future.
“I let my Airmen know this may be the end for me,” Mitchell said. “When the policy changed, it allowed me to continue my journey of making a real difference.”
“My goal is to help Airmen not make the same mistakes I made,” she said. “I want them to make good decisions because, at the end of the day, if they’re not taking care of themselves, they can’t take care of anyone else.”
Mitchell knows this all too well because as a single mother to her 7-year-old son, there’s more counting on her than just the Air Force and her Airmen.
“Being my son’s sole provider, I felt separating from the Air Force would’ve been a big letdown,” Mitchell said. “Now, I can continue making a better life for him.”
Even though she only has one child, Mitchell treats her Airmen like an extension of her family.
“She’s the mom away from home,” said Senior Airman Joseph Wase, 7th CMS B-1B Lancer avionics technician.
This sentiment resonates across the unit.
“She always pushes us to do our best, and I wouldn’t be the Airman I am today if it wasn’t for her.”
“She really cares about her troops, and it was pretty clear to me when I first arrived at Dyess,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Davis, 7th CMS B-1B Lancer avionics technician. “I’m glad I’ve gotten to work with her. She helped me through my deployment and checked on my family. I had a death in my family the first week back from my deployment, and she was there.”
“She had my back,” Davis said. “I’ve always known that if I needed her, then she would be there.”
Wright has been an advocate of progress and improvement within the enlisted force, and the high year of tenure extension was one of his widely celebrated changes.
“It helped us retain the experience and keep faith with a lot of our Airmen and their families,” Wright said. “They dedicated their lives to serving, so I think it’s good for the mission, units and the individual. It’s also good for the younger Airmen because of the experienced people who can train them.”
Because of this Air Force change for which Wright promoted, it changed Mitchell’s life. Mitchell had the opportunity to meet Wright during his visit to Dyess AFB.
Wright thanked Mitchell for her service and the outstanding job she’s been doing.
“It’s a great feeling for me, and I imagine it’s a much greater feeling for her,” Wright said. “Even with the high year tenure, commanders still had an option to say she’s not they person they want to retain. Clearly, she is. My job is to take care of our enlisted Airmen, and it’s great to know the things we’re doing at the Pentagon are actually making a difference.”
Mitchell remains hopeful and proud to be an Airman.
“I’m happy to be here for another five years,” Mitchell said. “Whatever my future may hold, I know I’ve always wanted to be here.”