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Chief Hopkins aims to help Airmen achieve riches, pride

By James Coburn | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 20, 2006

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — Chief Master Sgt. Dwayne Hopkins, the 37th Training Wing's new command chief, says he wants to help Lackland Airmen achieve their goals. When they do, he adds, they will enrich their lives and their Air Force family as well.

Talespinner readers may remember Chief Hopkins from his "Rags to riches" commentary in the April 7 edition, where he described his journey from an abusive children's home to starting his move to riches with graduation from high school and joining the Air Force when he was 17 in 1979.

He was in a one-year desert tour as command chief of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, when he wrote the commentary. The wing is responsible for providing combat airpower for U.S. Central Command operations, including Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Interviewed Tuesday in his 37th TRW headquarters building office in his second week on the job here, the soft-spoken chief said it's an extra honor to be command chief at the Gateway to the Air Force.

Selected as command chief after a monthlong selection and interview process by Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, 37th Training Wing commander, Chief Hopkins relished the thought of how many Airmen he has an opportunity to help on the Air Force's most populous base.

"I think it's an honor to be at Lackland, because from day one, when I first came in as airman basic, I came to Lackland. And then to come back as command chief master sergeant, and to fill that capacity for all these people. Can you imagine all the airmen basic who are here and see Chief Hopkins, and the impact that a chief has on these airmen basic and how it will affect them for the next 20 to 30 years?"

As he wrote in the commentary, "For me, mentoring in the Air Force began early on when I began to learn the Air Force Core Values - Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do. Those values soon became my own."

To anyone who rises to the rank of chief, he said in the interview, "I say that the first responsibility is taking care of their people. Educate them, show them how they can grow in all aspects of their life.

"I like being a command chief because I like helping people," he said. "I like people; I like helping people reach goals," he said, such as becoming Airman of the Quarter or to grow in their life, not necessarily just in the Air Force.

He wants to help the Airman who asks, "How can I link my life and my family to the riches?" Explaining, he said there are different ways to be rich: "education, spending quality time with your family - the family not being just your family, but the Air Force family, too."

This is his first assignment to Lackland since BMT, although Chief Hopkins said he did visit Lackland about three years ago as part of a team to mentor basic trainees who received their Airman's Coin at the conclusion of Warrior Week. "I thought it was awesome," he said of the emotional culmination ceremony when tears left no doubt about the sense of accomplishment felt by the new Airmen as they got their coin.
It's his third assignment as a command chief. His first time was with the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

Chief Hopkins said he has no current plans for Lackland. "I'm looking right now," he said. "Even though things seem to be running very good, there's always room for improvement. So those areas we will look to improve and make perfect."

From what he has seen so far, Lackland's Airmen are "doing great" and filling the requirement for deployments in an outstanding manner, he said. The chief, who has an aircraft maintenance background, has deployed three times himself, including four months at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I think everybody who's in the Air Force should be trained and ready to deploy at any time," he said. "That's what we do; that's what we get paid to do; that's what we should do."

Chief Hopkins is from Columbia, S.C., where his father, an Army sergeant first class, moved the family to Fort Jackson when he was 5 years old. His mother died in a car accident when he was 6. His father, who earlier served in the Korean War, was in his second tour of duty in Vietnam when he died of a heart attack, and Dwayne and his three brothers moved into the children's home.

The chief said his father had advised him to join the Air Force and take advantage of its education benefits, "which I did." He thinks his father "respected what the Air Force is, the airpower they gave the ground troops."

Chief Hopkins and his wife of 24 years, Anneke, have a 17-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

When Airmen ask for a career map, the chief tells them their first priority is the mission. "We as a military and Air Force have to rely on the mission, whether it be AEF or training the Airmen." After that, he said, "take care of yourself, take care of your family."

His advice to new Airmen:

"Adapt to the Air Force Core Values, no matter what you learned in the past, and you will do well."