JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, LACKLAND, Texas –
When the 37th Training Wing command chief master sergeant arrived at here in the fall of 2011, his message to the enlisted corps was "enjoy what you're doing."
Chief Master Sgt. Craig Recker has spent 30 years in the Air Force living by that message he's delivered to numerous young Airmen. He'll express it to graduating Airmen one last time as the wing's senior enlisted leader at Friday's Air Force Basic Military Training parade before his retirement ceremony later in the day.
"I will never, ever be this lucky again," Recker said. "I've had a fantastic Air Force career.
"I get to go out on top in an organization that makes a difference every day in the lives of our Airmen," he said. "I could never ask in a million years to have the level of success that I've had in the Air Force. If I could do it again, I wouldn't change a darn thing."
Recker has come full circle at Lackland with his retirement. He graduated BMT in 1984, and then spent the next fi ve years in BMT as a personnelist. Over the next 22 years, he served in a variety of NCO leadership assignments before returning to Lackland two and a half years ago as command chief of the largest training wing in the Air Force.
Upon his return, he used "awestruck" to describe the state of BMT.
"When I left here in '89, I thought we had it right then," Recker said at the time. "Today, we could pluck an Airman straight out of BMT and send them off to expeditionary operations and they would succeed. Basic training today is more relevant to what we need than when I graduated in 1984."
Asked to describe today's BMT, Recker said "inspirational" would be his one-word choice.
"I'm inspired by how dedicated the NCO corps is, how quickly they realized we had a problem and how most of them rushed in to be part of the solution," he said, referring to an Air Force investigation of trainee sexual assault by military training instructors.
"It was inspirational to me that NCOs were rushing toward the guns, not running away," Recker said. "The majority of our NCOs were indignant that some among them had damaged the institution through their disregard for our core values. Quite honestly, they were embarrassed.
"I have no doubt our institution is better because of what we've gone through," he said.
The command chief called his final assignment the best ever.
"We get to reshape the Air Force here every day," Recker said. "This is an amazing opportunity. Not only are we reshaping the Air Force, we're reshaping the world.
"We've got students from 110 countries in Defense Language Institute English Learning Center learning English," he said. "They have witnessed the professionalism this wing offers. In Inter-American Air Forces Academy, we have Latin American countries using our professional military education as a baseline to develop their own enlisted corps. We are shaping the hemisphere, the world and the Air Force."
Recker admitted his first day out of uniform will be an adjustment.
"I can't imagine what it's going to be like," he said. "For 30 years, every morning I got up thinking, 'I can't believe I'm fortunate enough to put on this uniform.' I think it will be one of those mixed emotion days.
"I'll be excited to have graduated from the Air Force, but I'll be saddened not to be an active part of this great organization," he said.
"I'm proud of everything we accomplished and I'm excited that we have a great team behind us to pick up the mantel, but I think I'm going to feel a little lost."