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NEWS | Sept. 30, 2009

Twenty four years of honor and counting

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

A passion for honor and precision has driven the 24-year career of a Charleston AFB chief master sergeant and inspired others toward the same pursuit along the way.

According to Staff Sgt. Danial Sawyer, the effect has been the chief's defining characteristic.

As the assistant NCO in charge of the Charleston AFB honor guard, giving honor to others has become Sergeant Sawyer's life, and in his mind, no other senior NCO has been as much of an inspiration to do that as his "Chief," he said.

"She's very confident, but she's very kind. I was almost intimidated when I first met her because of just how good her uniform looked. When you work for her, when you do things for her, you want to do them better because you're doing them for Chief."

As a seasoned senior NCO in the Services career field, the line between Chief Master Sgt. Angela Valentine's mission and people is indistinguishable, said Sergeant Sawyer.

"And beside's the sharpness, the other part of why people want to work so hard for her is how she loves helping people," he said. "I'm an NCO, but the Airmen especially really love her too. She'll put on the white Services uniform and go work the grill at the Dining Facility."

Chief Valentine's official duty title as the sustainment services superintendent for the 437th Force Support Squadron was complimented by her position as honor guard superintendent - a responsibility she holds very near to her heart, she said.

While at Charleston, she has brought all the experiences her many years have afforded her and applied them to add even more to an already honorable program.

From the forming of new training manuals, to the development of the honor guard indoctrination ceremony, to presenting the flag to the next of kin at three active-duty funerals, Chief Valentine has done much for Charleston's honor guard program.

Chief Valentine said she has always held the mission of the honor guard in the utmost regard, and said she relies on the continual support of Charleston's enthusiastic Airmen who volunteer to be members.

"When I talk to the honor guard Airmen when we have a training class, I always tell them I've been a member of the honor guard about as long as all of them have been alive," she said. "Anybody who knows me knows the honor guard is my passion.

"My dad passed away in 1986, about a year after I came in the Air Force, and I went to the funeral. He served in the Navy, so he was authorized Navy honors. Now, I had never seen a military funeral. So, when the NCO in charge of the detail gave my mother the flag, I was looking at her and she's got this look on her face like, 'Wow, I can't believe they're doing this for me.' She was so proud and grateful."

Chief Valentine and the honor guard have been synonymous ever since. Decades after her first years in the honor guard, she said no matter what base she is at, one of her first stops is to the honor guard, and her permanent change of station to Charleston was no different.

Chief Valentine came to Charleston as a senior master sergeant two years ago. Now, after making chief master sergeant, orders to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, are the next step in her career.

Despite her high hopes for her new assignment, saying farewell to those who will miss her most wasn't the part of receiving orders she said she was entirely fond of.

Even with the goodbyes, Sergeant Sawyer said there will be a piece of Chief Valentine left behind with everyone who knew her, especially for those in the honor guard.