Air Force Materiel Command’s top enlisted member ended his military career May 6, closing out what he calls a “wonderful journey” around the world.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Warner, AFMC’s command chief, retired in a ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, with retired Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, former AFMC commander, presiding over the ceremony.
Warner joined the U.S. Army Reserve on his 17th birthday, hoping to pay for college and pursue law. After a couple of years, he couldn’t quite afford to go to school, but he had met the girl of his dreams.
“I knew I would need to have a job that could support us,” he said. “That is where the Air Force started to become a serious option. I had grown up near an Air Force base and talked to some of the Airmen. I joined the Air Force as a security specialist in 1987, and my journey in this great Air Force began.”
Aside from serving as a security specialist, Warner spent nine years as a first sergeant, followed by a stint as an NCO Academy commandant, before becoming a command chief in 2006. In what he describes as a wonderful career, Warner says he has enjoyed every assignment.
“I have had great experiences and great missions, and I have been able to travel the world,” he said. “But as cool as that has been, what I have enjoyed most about my time in the Air Force is the people I have met and served with. I have made many, many friends that will be my friends for life. I won’t tell you I had the intention of serving for 30 years when I first joined, but I will tell you that I decided to continue serving each time because of the people I worked with, my first-line supervisors and the senior NCOs that were my leadership — I loved coming to work every day.”
Of course, any 30-year journey is bound to include change. During his time in the Air Force, Warner said he’s witnessed changes to uniforms, fitness standards, assignment systems, education among the enlisted force, the way we care for Airmen and their families, and operations tempo based on changes in the world — just to scratch the surface.
“The great thing about all of that is our Air Force is good at change,” he said. “The changes we have made were needed, and they have created the truly powerful Air Force that exists today.”
One change in particular has been a bit more personal for Warner.
“I am very proud that I was part of the Air Force Enlisted Board of Directors and was a key member of the enlisted team that designed and developed the structure for our new Enlisted Evaluation System, the changes to our Weighted Airmen Promotion System, and our Enlisted Professional Military Education path,” he said. “This process started when I first arrived at AFMC four years ago, and to sit here and see us in the actual implementation of a change that will serve our Airmen in a better fashion makes me very proud that I got to be a part of what I consider to be the most significant change to enlisted force development that I have seen in my 30 years in our great Air Force.”
Although his work in that arena has implications Air Force-wide, Warner says he’s also proud to have closed out his career at AFMC.
“When I came here as the command chief, I didn’t have any other AFMC experience,” Warner said. “I knew that AFMC had the three large depots, but I wasn’t fully aware of everything this command does to ensure our Air Force is ready to fly, fight and win. I am proud of the fact that I got to represent the truly phenomenal Airmen of this command, as our Air Force cannot do anything without AFMC. Every single tool, uniform, platform and piece of equipment is AFMC’s responsibility. Every weapon system in our Air Force is thought of, researched, tested, acquired, supported, sustained and retired by this command. It is the AFMC Airmen that make this happen, and that makes me proud to have been a part of it.”