JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
After 30 years of service to the Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. William Cavenaugh, Air Force Recruiting Service command chief, will retire in a ceremony here July 17.
Cavenaugh grew up in North Carolina and worked for his cousin's construction company for a while after he graduated from high school.
"I carried 50 pound bundles of shingles up to rooftops," he said. "It was tough work, and it made me realize real quick that I wanted something more out of life. I knew the military provided opportunities so I went to talk to a Navy recruiter-- my dad had served in the Navy."
As fate would have it, the Navy recruiter wasn't in.
"An Air Force recruiting flight chief happened to be in his recruiter's office while the recruiter was on leave and he sold me on the Air Force," he said.
Cavenaugh enlisted as an aircraft maintenance crew chief in November 1984 and was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"When I was in maintenance, I did some pretty neat things. I participated in a search and rescue mission in a C-130 over the Gulf of Mexico," he said. "I was also named crew chiefof the month several times and awarded master crew chief status which earned me an incentive ride in a T-38. But it's a career field that is easy to feel like you've reached the top in so I started looking at other opportunities."
After making staff sergeant, the Chief decided that he wanted to try his hand at a special duty assignment.
"I wanted to be a military training instructor, but then the recruiter screening team came to Eglin," Cavenaugh said.
"They sold me on recruiting duty and it was a good fit for me. I've been with Air Force Recruiting Service for 26 years."
While some people join the Air Force for patriotic reasons, Cavenaugh said he feels most Airmen mature into that mindset and make the Air Force a career because they come to believe in the ideals of the Air Force and develop a commitment to something bigger than themselves.
"It's one thing to join the Air Force, but if you decide to make it a career it's because your reasons for serving have evolved," he said.
Reflecting on his 30-year career, Cavenaugh has a lot of memories that bring a smile to his face.
"Every job was special," he said. "When I was a recruiter on the bag, I recruited a young man from Tabor City, N.C., that I lost contact with over the years, but he emailed me recently to let me know that he sewed on the rank of chief master sergeant."
As the AFRS command chief, Cavenaugh oversaw several improvements to the recruiting career field.
"I recommended the new badge system, as well as the new senior and master recruiter levels," he said. "This system will help grow the next generation of recruiters and identify the right people for leadership positions within AFRS."
Because the command is so spread apart, communication problems still persist, he said.
"Not every level of recruiting has an appreciation for what the other levels are doing," Cavenaugh said. "We need to get better at listening to each other. We have a monthly teleconference to discuss important issues that need to be addressed in the field. The master and senior recruiters give recruiters in the field a voice."
Despite a challenging couple of years due to sequestration, he wishes to leave AFRS with a parting thought.
"I'm very proud of you," the chief said. "You've exceeded my expectations in dealing with these challenges
and have successfully navigated through some very transformative years. As a recruiting force you are more
professional now than when I entered AFRS 26 years ago. Keep up the great work and continue to do the right thing, live up to the expectations our Air Force has of you, and strive for excellence in all you do."