RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Beep. Beep. Beep. A cashier scans items and sends them down the conveyor belt to the bagger. ‘Baggers work for tips only’ are the words displayed on signs near the registers.
Baggers can range anywhere from teenagers to retirees. They might even go on to become four-star generals.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein recently visited the Ramstein Air Base Commissary, but this was not his first time here. As a teenager, he worked as a bagger in the 1970s while his family was stationed at Ramstein Air Base.
“I remember working here,” said Goldfein. “This was one of my first jobs and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such great people.”
Goldfein worked for Head Bagger Charlie Searchwell during his youth at Ramstein AB, who has worked at the commissary for nearly 50 years. Searchwell described Goldfein as hard working, friendly, and appreciative.
“A lot of chiefs, colonels, and leaders come back,” Searchwell said. “They don’t forget their first job.”
Goldfein and Searchwell embraced and chatted briefly upon seeing each other, reminiscing on their time spent working together.
“He was a great boss,” said Goldfein. “He had high standards and wouldn’t put up with folks not showing up on time.”
Goldfein passed through Ramstein AB on his way back to the states after visiting Airmen at various installations across the Middle East.
During the Ramstein AB visit, Goldfein met with baggers, greeted shoppers, and bagged groceries for customers with his former boss.
Chief Master Sgt. Jackie Harris, the 24th Intelligence Squadron superintendent, was stunned that the Air Force chief of staff was returning to his Ramstein AB roots as a bagger.
“He’s down here bagging groceries, you rarely see that,” said Harris. “This is servant leadership at its best.”