Face of Defense: Air Force NCO Returns to Old Unit
By Air Force Maj. Jillian Torango
52nd Fighter Wing
GRAF IGNATIEVO AIR FORCE BASE, Bulgaria, Oct. 18, 2010 Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Patrick has seen the 480th Fighter Squadron from two different perspectives -- first as a new airman during the early 1990s and now as its first sergeant during a weapons training deployment here called Operation Thracian Star.
Air Force Master Sgt Michael Patrick stands in front of an F-16 Fighting Falcon bearing his squadron's tail flash at Graf Ignatievo Air Base, Bulgaria, Oct. 13, 2010. Patrick is the 480th Fighter Squadron’s first sergeant. He returned to the 480th after nearly 20 years to serve as the first sergeant for the three-week combined exercise that gave both U.S. and Bulgarian airmen the opportunity to train together and strengthen relationships. U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jillian Torango
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Patrick said he was first assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron in 1991 as an Airman 1st Class, who took care of aircraft scheduling, weather briefings and pilot requirement tracking.
"The 480th FS was my second duty assignment after only one year at Homestead Air Force Base, Fla.," Patrick said. "I was an Airman 1st Class brought in as a temporary NCO in charge of the shop until an actual NCO could fill the position."
It wasn't long before then-airman Patrick went on his first deployment with the 480th to Saudi Arabia, where during his downtime he sought mentorship and guidance from his first sergeant.
"I would spend a lot of time with our first sergeant, and I've wanted to be a 'shirt' ever since then," he said. "He showed me it was all about helping people and not constantly yelling or demanding things from those below you in rank."
Nearly 20 years later, Patrick has come full circle and is humbled by the fact that he has filled the boots of his first Air Force mentor.
"Being chosen as the 480th FS first sergeant for this deployment is a big deal to me, because this is where it all started," Patrick said, "I've been in the Air Force now for 22 years and will test for senior master sergeant this year in the hope of continuing my Air Force career."
Patrick talks about the airmen on this deployment with pride, knowing that 20 years after he first served with the 480th FS they are continuing the squadron's historic mission.
"The 480th FS is a warfighting squadron which has a long history of greatness," he said, adding he can’t “say enough about our airmen, who are working on these aircraft and supporting our mission."