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NEWS | Nov. 18, 2009

Lightning strikes twice toting set of chief stripes

By Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

"My dad said you always have to learn how to be a company man," said the senior master sergeant with a smile.

After his recent selection for promotion to chief master sergeant, the senior NCO had plenty of reason to grin at what his father had told him.

"A company man ... that's to buy into the whole Air Force concept," he said.

Senior Master Sgt. Damian Fox uttered the words like they were spoken the day before, clear in his memory without hesitation or wandering eyes.

To him, they were the words of his father. For the rest of Charleston AFB, they are the words of retired Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Fox, who served more than 29 years in the Air Force and retired at Charleston AFB in 1989.

At first glance, Sergeant Fox appears to have so much in common with his father professionally that a bystander might have trouble telling the two apart.

Both enlisted in the Air Force. Both served as loadmasters. Both were stationed at Charleston AFB for a fair amount of their careers, even at the same time. Both share the same last name, and come the spring of 2010, they will both have earned the distinction of being a chief master sergeant.

For such a coincidence to have occurred, it could be said that Sergeant Fox must have set out from the day he was born to follow in his father's footsteps, but according to Sergeant Fox, things didn't exactly end up that way.

What separates the man from the myth is just a few minutes in his sincere company, listening to his journey of self discovery which took him away from Charleston AFB and back again.

The Fox family moved to Charleston in 1975. He will proudly point out his attendance as a seventh grader at Lambs Elementary School. He remembers the Charleston of his childhood and how much it has changed over the years, and with ease he recounts his time spent at an old job he held at a local Radio Shack.

"When I joined I was like, 'Okay I need a job,' basically. My aspiration was to go to school and spend four years [enlisted]. But things change and life changes, so I ended up staying," he said. "Now, I've always admired my dad. Don't get me wrong, because he came a long way from where he started. But to say I was going to be a chief just like him? I didn't start day-one coming in the Air Force thinking that's what I was going to be."

In his first years in the Air Force, the younger Fox said his days were filled with flying. As a loadmaster on C-141Bs, he kept his pace with busy operations tempos during his first assignments at McGuire AFB, N.J., and here.

"As a loadmaster, I didn't really get to know the squadron that much because I was flying all the time," he said. "Really, the thing that turned me around was ... I got stationed at Altus [AFB], Okla., and because we were a training flight and we were a smaller knit group and we were home all the time, I kind of got more involved inside the squadron and with the people in the squadron."

During his time at Altus AFB, Sergeant Fox said it was reaching out and affecting the lives of Airmen that left the biggest impact on his career.

"For some reason, that whole thing of dealing with the people and the well-being of the squadron I enjoyed and wanted to do it from that day on," said Sergeant Fox.

He said the opportunity to help Airmen in ways he never could in his duties as a loadmaster opened his eyes to the bigger picture of the Air Force, and he began to realize there was more he could be a part of.

"From that point, it kind of inspired me to get promoted so I could make a difference ... to go as far as I could so I could affect people and how they viewed the Air Force and how their lives were handled while they were in," he said. "Whether I made it all the way to chief or not was yet to be seen."

Admittedly, his father had initially led him in the direction of becoming a loadmaster, but he said what he found out about himself at Altus AFB was something new.

"I was always good at the technical part of the job, but it was the other parts of the Air Force that Altus kind of taught me to care more about than just going out and doing my job the best that I could do," he said. "You can work hard and not be focused in any one direction ... instead of just being a good loadmaster, I focused on being a good Air Force Airman. And that became my focus - to become an overall developed whole-person in the Air Force."

After being stationed at Altus AFB, Sergeant Fox returned to Charleston AFB in 2001 and has been assigned here ever since.

In all, he has been assigned to each of the 437th Airlift Wing's airlift squadrons. Between him, his father and his brother, Tech. Sgt. Frederick Fox who is a reservist with the 317th Airlift Squadron, at least one Fox has been stationed at Charleston AFB throughout the past 35 years.

"[My father] would always have confidence in me," Sergeant Fox said. "He'd say, 'I know you can do it.' He says you just have to want to do it. You have to decide that's the direction you want to go in and become part of the company instead of just working for the company."

In the end, Sergeant Fox said he believes his father was right.