Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
After a change of command ceremony June 23, the Air Force will lose one of its highest ranking enlisted champions.
Chief Master Sgt. Kevin J. Isakson, the current 37th Training Wing command chief, is set to retire after 29 years of military service.
At least officially.
That's because Chief Isakson, a man who for the last six years has been consumed with an inner devotion to helping military members in every facet of their careers, will never officially stop offering that assistance.
He plans, instead, to involve himself with the business of establishing and improving the credit ratings of members in the U.S. military, ratings which are important keys to their financial freedom and independence.
And occasionally, he'll throw out a baited line or two.
"I'm excited about getting the opportunity to help military members over in the Camp Lejeune, Seymour-Johnson area, because people are the ones that make this Air Force go," Chief Isakson said, sitting in a chair that seems barely capable of containing his 6-foot-3-inch frame.
"You can't do anything without them," he continued. "I always tell them I'm their cheerleader, to pat them on the back and yell for them. They're what I'll miss the most."
Looking around the walls of his office, it appears those feelings will be mutual. Blanketing, or perhaps replacing those walls, are numerous awards, coin racks, certificates and plaques from all the bases he's ever been. And they each hold their own special significance.
"These were all given to me by people I've met," Chief Isakson said. "People I've spent time with, and mentored. Laughed with and cried with, through the good and the bad. And they all represent my life at some point in time in my career."
Chief Isakson's Air Force career, a culmination of different experiences and places both foreign and domestic, has an extremely coincidental feel to it, in totality. It began here back in the fall of 1977, while the world focused on two superpowers and their nuclear weapons testing in Nevada and Eastern Kazakh.
Almost three decades later, with the world's attention focused on quelling terrorism and its numerous cell networks, it ends in the very same place. But not before Chief Isakson was able to leave his mark on different areas of the military organization he's dedicated his life to.
"My background is aircraft maintenance," Chief Isakson said, his large hands lightly tapping the table. "I came in the Air Force and started with the C-141, the A-models, before being blessed with the opportunity to bring in the first 75 C-17's in the Air Force."
"From there, I got the opportunity to go to Korea and work with the F-16's there," Chief Isakson continued. "After being in airlift, you start to work with fighters and you meet different people with a different mentality. A different way of doing business."
Those experiences helped in giving Chief Isakson the view needed to be a successful command chief, a position he's held on three different occasions.
Having been a command chief here at Lackland, however, has a special significance.
"To come through basic training, and then turn around and be a command chief here is huge," Chief Isakson said. "There aren't many people that get that opportunity, and there's no other wing I'd rather be at."
"So, it's going to be emotional (leaving)," said Chief Isakson, the deep bass of his voice growing a little quieter as he speaks. "It's not going to be easy. My wife has been engaged in the Air Force as much as I have, having supported me in the things that I do. So it'll be tough for the both of us."
"But I wouldn't trade anything for my experiences," Chief Isakson said. "My goal as a chief, in every unit I've been at, has always been to leave things a little bit better than I found it. And with the help of people around the wing, I believe we've done that here. And I'm proud to have served."