Kentucky’s top enlisted Airman concludes 36-year career of service to Air National Guard

By Senior Airman Joshua Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini (left), Kentucky’s adjutant general, presents Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, the Kentucky National Guard’s outgoing state command chief, with Smith’s retirement certificate during a ceremony at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on July 12, 2014. Smith served in the Air National Guard for more than 36 years. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After more than 36 years of service to the Kentucky Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, the outgoing command chief master sergeant for the state of Kentucky, was retired in a ceremony held here July 12.

Smith received the Legion of Merit medal during the ceremony, making him the first state command chief in Air Guard history to receive the nation’s seventh highest military honor.

“During his 37 years, he spanned the globe making both his unit and Guard look good wherever he went,” said Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, Kentucky’s adjutant general. “He’s provided me counsel, guidance, ideas and, more than any of that, a real can-do attitude. I could bounce ideas off Jim and know that he would give me an honest assessment in his professional opinion. Jim, I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to have a go-to guy like you, especially with so many moving parts at both the state and national level.”

Smith enlisted in the Kentucky Air National Guard in September 1977 as an aircrew life support specialist. In 1989, he became the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 165th Airlift Squadron’s Life Support Section and guided the unit’s personnel to excellence. The section received the highest rating of “outstanding” on three consecutive Air Mobility Command higher-headquarters inspections, with the team being singled out as “exceptional performers” every time. Smith held this position until his selection as the state command chief in 2010.

Smith’s duties as Kentucky’s top enlisted Airman included advising the adjutant general on enlisted-force morale, welfare, training and utilization; and evaluating the quality of non-commissioned officer leadership, management and supervisory training. He was an integral day-to-day member of the adjutant general’s senior staff, overseeing the needs and concerns of the state’s enlisted corps.

“As a chief, Jim truly was an advocate for Air Guard troops,” Tonini told the audience of family friends and co-workers gathered in the Base Annex. “He looked out for all of you and made sure that our Airmen got what they needed. Jim would brag about the thousands of amazing missions and accomplishments our Kentucky Airmen were executing all over the world through his entire career. Jim was there for you and was always there for me.”

Smith deployed extensively to multiple locations throughout his career, supporting Operations Southern Watch, Restore Hope, Joint Forge, Coronet Oak, Volant Oak, Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

“Jim, you and your family have made such great contributions to the Kentucky Air National Guard,” Tonini said. “You will be missed, but your love and devotion will always be felt with each Airman who serves in our wing. You have a great legacy; one that you and we can be very proud of. I salute you and thank your for your service to the commonwealth and to the nation.”

Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Moore assumed responsibilities as the state’s newest command chief master sergeant on July 11.

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