TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Another illustrious Air Force career will soon be coming to an end as Air Force Sustainment Center Executive Director Jeffrey Allen is due to retire Oct. 3.
Crediting much of his success to his continuous learning with 40 years of service to the United States, Mr. Allen’s tenure was inundated with various jobs in multiple career fields.
“I’m very fortunate,” Mr. Allen said. “But I never thought I would end up here, or make this a lifelong career.”
Mr. Allen rewound to his senior year of high school, a 17-year-old kid being heavily recruited by several colleges. Faced with the dilemma of which prestigious institution to choose, he sought advice from his older brother. In return, Mr. Allen received encouragement to follow in the same footsteps and consider joining the Air Force.
With the old GI Bill in place, which essentially pays for public education after four years of service, Mr. Allen decided that would be a route worth pursuing.
“I really enjoyed active duty, but I knew I always wanted to get an education and pursue other things,” the executive director recalled.
Four years later and planning to return to Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Allen was presented with an option to apply to be an air reserve technician in Charleston, S.C., where he was stationed at the time. Entertaining that option, Mr. Allen decided to fill out an application, where he selected “worldwide availability” as a location preference.
He was interrupted in his enrollment to Ohio State University by a call to become a civilian at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana. And, thus, his career in civil service launched through the air reserve technician program.
After 14 months in Indiana, Mr. Allen transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and he was back to his home state. He was stationed at Wright-Patt from 1983 – 1997. During that time, Mr. Allen decided to put education back on his priority list and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics, a Masters in Business Administration, and Professional Management Education by completing Air Command and Staff College by correspondence.
Additionally, during his first 16 years, Mr. Allen transitioned from a wage grade employee to a general schedule employee, ran the spectrum on maintenance opportunities as well as held positions in acquisitions and logistics.
He moved ten different times over the course of 40 years and, with the encouragement from his wife and two sons, embraced each new adventure and opportunity with open arms. Now a member of the Senior Executive Service, an elite classification in civil service that is somewhat analogous to general officer ranks, the retiring executive director reflected on a career full of challenges, risk-taking and hard work that allowed him to bridge into some different jobs.
“From the reinvigoration of the nuclear enterprise at the Pentagon to the energy consolidation at Air Force Space Command and bending the cost curve at the Air Force Sustainment Center, those are enormous accomplishments of which I’m very proud,” Mr. Allen said.
Those milestones were all a part of him winning the Presidential Rank Award, an individual award granted by the President to career SES members, which Mr. Allen received earlier this year.
“At the senior level, you work a lot of challenges and issues but you rarely get to step back and strategically look at how far you’ve come,” he said. “When you’re able to do that and reflect on what you and your team have accomplished, it’s extremely rewarding.”
For Mr. Allen, however, it’s not about the distinguished awards and recognition as he looks retrospectively at his life in service that fulfills him most. Rather, being in a position to guide others and better posture themselves has left the retiring executive director feeling gratified.
“We call it mentoring today, but it was much less formal when I started working,” he described. “When I went down to the Logistics Career Program in 1997, one of the best things we were able to do was reach out to logisticians across the Air Force. They would seek us out to help them progress in their careers.
“Giving ideas, thoughts, suggestions and steering them, even just a little bit, helps them bloom where they’re planted,” Mr. Allen added. “Helping folks supervise and succeed, helping shape careers is every leader’s responsibility.”
The Air Force has evolved the last 40 years, bringing more transparency, greater communication and collaboration. Technology has advanced providing enhanced capabilities for a stronger workforce.
As another chapter closes for Mr. Allen, another adventure is surely on the horizon. But upon his departure, upon embracing a new kind of opportunity, the executive director stressed the importance of a legacy he wants to leave behind.
“Work hard,” he said matter-of-factly. “Your reputation will follow you throughout your career, be known as the person who will get the job done, not the person who won’t. And, don’t be afraid to take risks, try new things and enjoy the journey. You will be amazed when you get to the point [of retirement] at how fast it went.”