Chief retires after 38 years of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zachary Vucic
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A ceremony was held here Jan. 6, 2018, to celebrate the retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Bruce Bair, the flight engineer superintendent for the 758th Airlift Squadron.

Commanders, friends, family and guests were in attendance as Bair was retired after 38 years of service in the Air Force.

Bair said his interest in aircraft started early. He recalled an instance while eating dinner in his hometown of New Philadelphia, Ohio, when he heard a C-124 Globemaster II passing overhead.

“I can remember back about 45 years ago, I’m at the dinner table when I hear a rumble,” Bair said. “I shoved my chair back and ran outside, and there was a (C-124). I was always airplane crazy.”

It was his passion for aircraft that led him to enlist in the Air Force before he even graduated high school, just three days after his 18th birthday in 1980. After completion of basic military training he left for Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, to begin his training as a T-38 Talon crew chief. From there he was on to Laughlin AFB, Texas, where he would stay for the next four years.

One weekend while Bair was on duty, he said a chance encounter with a transient aircraft caused a course correction in his life.

“I was working weekend duty and a C-130 (Hercules) came in,” Bair said. “I thought ‘when we get done (working) I’m going to go down and check it out.’ I lucked out because somebody was at the airplane. He took me around and showed me the airplane and put me in the (engineer) seat. When he turned the battery on, everything lit up and all the gauges moved. That was my ‘ah-ha’ moment.”

The following day, Bair applied to become a C-130 flight engineer. After his acceptance and training, Bair was sent to Little Rock AFB, Ark., where he flew with the 50th Airlift Squadron for roughly a year and a half before transitioning to the Reserves and moving to Pittsburgh in May of 1986.

Roughly one percent of the enlisted force reaches the rank of chief master sergeant. Bair said it was an unexpected honor to attain his rank in 2010.

“It’s the people that make this place,” he said. “What kept me going is the people.”

Bair’s careers has seen more than 200 combat sorties and 495 combat flight hours. Beyond that, he’s tallied 9,760 total flight hours in the C-130, received two commendation medals, two air achievement medals, three air medals, one meritorious service medal and 14 combat readiness medals.

Bair said it is a bittersweet moment to retire. He said the support from his leadership, peers and the local community has been outstanding.