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NEWS | July 31, 2012

Chief's retirement marks 'end of an era'

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

For the last four decades, many things have changed throughout Joint Base Charleston - Air Base. Commanders have come and gone, missions have deployed countless times all over the world and our Air Force family has extended into joint basing. However, one thing has always seemed to remain constant; until now.

Since 1975, a member of the Fox family has been stationed in Charleston as an active-duty loadmaster. The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Damian Fox, 437th Airlift Wing, 16th Airlift Squadron operations supervisor, marks an end of the illustrious Fox era here.

"I've always considered Charleston my home," said Fox. "I grew up here, went to school here and spent my summers swimming and mowing yards here ... so, what better place to retire?"

Fox may have spent most of his childhood and military career in the Lowcountry; however, the legacy begins with his father, the original Fox loadmaster, Ret. Chief Master Sgt. Ron Fox.

It was Ron's guidance that not only aided Damian, but Damian's younger brother Fred, to follow in their father's footsteps as an active-duty Air Force loadmasters.

"I encouraged both my boys to think long range," said Ron, in regards to his sons' military future. "The Air Force gave me so much and I wanted them to have the same opportunities I had, like seeing the world and having a career to be proud of."

In 1982, Damian quit his job unloading trucks at Radio Shack, enlisted into the U.S. Air Force, left for basic training and never looked back. He was the first of the brothers to raise his right hand to defend the United States.

Although Ron was proud of his son's decision, he didn't want either son to immediately return to Charleston to serve under him.

"It was important that my boys could stand on their own feet in the Air Force," said Ron. "Damian has always been an excellent loadmaster, which is exactly how I thought he would be."

Damian's ability to excel as a loadmaster early in his career opened doors professionally as well. In 1983, on his first mission as a qualified loadmaster, Damian played a role in the Invasion of Grenada (codenamed: Operation Urgent Fury) as a C-141 loadmaster.

"The mission into Grenada made me nervous, mainly because I didn't know what to expect," said Damian. "Being selected for special operations, into places such as Grenada and Panama, was very rewarding. The big payoff though, was being able to live the mission and see the results."

One of the most rewarding missions of Damian's career came a few years later when he was selected to aid in a dignified transfer of fallen service members. In 1989, a United States Marine Corps helicopter in South Korea crashed during a routine exercise, killing 22 Marines.

"It was my duty to ensure the caskets were properly aligned and taken from the aircraft," said Damian. "There was a lot of sadness for them during the mission, but I was proud to properly bring them back to their loved ones with dignity."

As Damian was rising through the ranks and conducting flying missions all around the globe, his father, Ron, was part of a team of loadmasters that aided designers in developing the next generation's cargo aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster III.

"Being able to assist in making the C-17 safer and more efficient for loadmasters was incredible, but the best part was making it safer and more efficient for my sons," said Ron.

Damian was one of the first JB Charleston Airmen to take part in missions aboard the C-17. He refers to the aircraft as the 'Cadillac of cargo planes' mainly due to the design of the back half, which kept loadmasters in mind during the design process, unlike many of the planes predecessors.

"My career has taken me all over the world," said Damian. "Foreign countries are great. But, my favorite place to be is in the United States. It has everything to offer here and protecting the U.S. and its people motivates the mission that much more."

Damian added that he is very optimistic about the future of mobility airlift and looks forward to seeing where tomorrow's loadmasters will be taking the Air Force.

"Loadmasters have made leaps and bounds since the day I enlisted," said Damian. "Aircraft have made technological advances that have permitted less aircrew flying at once. The Airmen flying are knowledgeable of their mission and constantly evolving within the career field."

Today, Damian's younger brother, Tech. Sgt. Fred Fox, a C-17 loadmaster with the 315th Airlift Wing, carries the family name as a member of Team Charleston. The Fox family has been an essential element in mobility airlift for 37 years, and although that chapter of their lives is behind Damian and Ron, the impact they've made on mobility airlift will last forever.