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Command chief bids farewell after 33 years

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, the 919th Special Operations Wing command chief, enjoys his final ride back to base as an MC-130E Combat Talon I loadmaster after completing his and the aircraft’s last sortie. The last five Talons in the Air Force belong to the 919th SOW and are scheduled to be retired at a ceremony April 25.  They will make one final flight to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., by the end of the fiscal year.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, the 919th Special Operations Wing command chief, enjoys his final ride back to base as an MC-130E Combat Talon I loadmaster after completing his and the aircraft’s last sortie. Mason retired during the August UTA after 33 years of Air Force service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, the 919th Special Operations Wing command chief, receives a meritorious service medal during his retirement ceremony Aug. 1 at Duke Field, Fla. Surrounded by friends and family, Mason said goodbye to the 919th Special Operations Wing and the Air Force after 33 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, the 919th Special Operations Wing command chief, receives a meritorious service medal during his retirement ceremony Aug. 1 at Duke Field, Fla. Surrounded by friends and family, Mason said goodbye to the 919th Special Operations Wing and the Air Force after 33 years of service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- The 919th Special Operations Wing's command chief bid his wing farewell Aug. 1 during his retirement ceremony here.

Chief Master Sgt. Tom Mason, a C-130E Combat Talon I loadmaster prior to accepting the wing's command chief position in 2013 retired after 33 years of  service in the Air Force.

The entire wing turned out to say goodbye to the command chief with lavish presentations, speeches and ceremonies.  Enlisted Airmen and officers from Mason's past took turns telling stories and reminiscing about the chief's antics, deployments and career.

Mason spent his entire career as a reservist and 23 years wing the 919th SOW.  He deployed multiple times with the wing as a maintainer and loadmaster.

The chief said he held it together until he was overcome with emotion when presented with the folded flag by the Eglin Air Force Base honor guard.  Then he addressed his wing one last time as their chief.

"We're extremely blessed to be here.  This thing we do, it's not a career, it is a commitment.  I owe a lot of people in this wing for where I am today," said the chief fighting back emotion. 
  
Of all his career accomplishments, he said serving as a command chief was the greatest.

"Wearing this star on my sleeve the last few years was the best thing I've ever done," he said.  "This is the pinnacle."

He also provided some words of wisdom to his replacement, Chief Master Sgt. Brian Bischoff.

"Welcome aboard, he said. " You've got a bunch of good people here.  Take care of them."