Amburgey retires after 38 years of military achievement

Story by Master Sgt. Philip Speck, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Chief Master Sgt. Jim Amburgey (right) receives a certificate of retirement from Col. Kenneth Dale, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group, during his retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 12, 2014. Amburgey served for more than 38 years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With 38 years of outstanding service to the 123rd Airlift Wing, Chief Master Sgt. Jim Amburgey was honorably retired from the U.S. Air Force during a ceremony held here Jan. 12.

More than a hundred friends, family and fellow Guardsmen, both active and retired, attended the ceremony, which was punctuated by laughter and tears as the chief looked back on his career.

Col. Kenneth Dale, commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group, has worked with Amburgey for the past 34 years and praised him as a rock upon which the Kentucky Air National Guard was built.

“A nation reveals itself by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, and the men it remembers,” Dale said, quoting former president John F. Kennedy. “Today we’re honoring one of the very best: Chief Amburgey.

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Col. Kenneth Dale (left), commander of the 123rd Maintenance Group, pins the Meritorious Service Medal to the jacket of Chief Master Sgt. Jim Amburgey during Amburgey’s retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 12, 2014. Amburgey served for more than 38 years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

“I believe Chief Amburgey has had a positive impact on every single person in this room.”

Amburgey decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Master Sgt. Jim Amburgey Sr., and join the Kentucky Air National Guard on Sept. 12, 1975 as an Air Operations Specialist in the command post. The unit was flying RF-101 Voodoos at the time.

When Dale asked members of the audience how many people were part of the wing then, only two Airmen raised their hands — Amburgey and retired Maj. Gen. Carl Black.

Amburgey transitioned to the engine shop in 1978, and four years later, he was assigned to be Dale’s first trainer.

From 1985 until his retirement, Amburgey held a variety of positions in the 123rd Maintenance Operations Flight, including aircraft production controller and superintendent.

“He is truly the MOF subject-matter expert for the Air National Guard,” Dale said.

Because of his expertise in the Maintenance Operations Flight, Amburgey has been called upon for assistance from other units and the National Guard Bureau, which selected him by name to perform compliance inspections, Dale said.

After the terrorist attacks of September 2001, Amburgey deployed to Afghanistan several times, and in 2007 he was promoted to chief master sergeant — “one of the wisest things our wing has ever done,” Dale said.

As a deployed maintenance chief, Amburgey wowed the deployed commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, by having no missions lost due to maintenance, and by attaining a mission capability rate that was well over 90 percent — a rate which Dale said Bagram had not seen until the Kentucky Air National Guard and Chief Amburgey showed up.

“Every since he joined he the Kentucky Air National Guard, he’s been a true pillar of the Kentucky National Guard and U.S. Air Force,” Dale said. “He helped build the foundation of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s success and recognizable name around the world.

“Chief, thank you for your candor and your courage throughout the years. Thank you for making the tough decisions, the right decisions, for four long decades.”

Amburgey, who was presented with a Meritorious Service Medal and the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal during the ceremony, thanked his many friends and family members for their support through the years, and for the spirit of teamwork that made his career so rewarding.

“Take away ranks, (and) we’re all people,” Amburgey said. “We’re all just a big team.”

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