JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas –
When Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman began his Air Force career nearly 27 years ago, he had no idea he would contribute to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for nearly three decades.
“Every unit I have ever been assigned to belongs to 25th Air Force today,” Towberman said, sitting in his empty office a couple of days before departing from San Antonio.
Looking back, his selection as the 25th Air Force command chief in 2014 was something he was preparing for his entire career, he said.
“They needed someone who spoke ACC (Air Combat Command) and Intel to stand up the Numbered Air Force three years ago,” he explained. His 15 years at the 55th Wing, and time spent as command chief at the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, gave him the knowledge and experience needed to do the job.
In preparing for their future, Towberman encourages Airmen to find value and success within themselves, not from others.
“Every one of us chooses how we value ourselves. Every one of us decides that what makes me feel good about me is, fill in the blank,” he said. “And if we fill in that blank with promotions, or money, or a beautiful wife, or a fancy car, or whatever it is …” these are things that cannot be controlled, he said.
“My advice, always, is for people to value themselves by their deeds, by their works, by the change they make in the world, by the difference they make with other people. Then, you own your value. And when you own your value, a lot of the stress of being successful is gone because now you have defined your success by your character, by ‘I’m a good person, the difference I make, the changes I make, and how I live my life.’"
“When you do that,” he said, “you are successful, and no matter how many stripes you end up with, you know your career has been worth it.”
Towberman also said Airmen who help others are more resilient themselves.
“Those people that give, the people that volunteer, the people that help other people, are stronger, happier and healthier than if they did not do that,” he said. ”You will find also that your resiliency is not challenged in the same way. Not just because you’re happier by definition, but also because we know that helping others helps ourselves.”
Towberman has found his worth from taking care of others and being a part of ISR Airmen’s lives, but it is not the uniform that gives the chief his worth, he said. It is the change he sees when he visits the Airmen; it’s the ‘thank you’s, and the things he didn’t get thank you’s for. It was always important to him to be a part of something worthwhile.
“The Air Force recently took the one Novembers (1N, intelligence Airman) off of the high risk of suicide list. No number of stripes could ever replace the joy that gives me; to know that after years of working at this, years, and so many conversations. So much work to put billets in place, to get the medical and chaplain communities to fill those billets, to convince Airmen that it was real, that they could trust those people, that this was really happening. All that work that we did, and to see it happen and to see it make a difference,” he said.
Towberman’s advice to Airmen who want to get ahead in their Air Force careers is, “Ask the Air Force what they want you to do, and do it better than everybody else. Sometimes we forget that ‘do it better than everybody else’ part,” he said. “Become the person that everyone comes to. Be the one that makes things happen. It’s about doing the common things uncommonly well, and earning real respect the old fashioned way.”
The chief departed from Joint Base San Antonio and his Air Force ISR comrades for new challenges and a new chapter in his career working for the Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon. He is excited to be working on manpower and the policies that make things happen.