Chief Still Answers Call After 40 Years
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J., Feb. 22, 2002 After 40 years of federal service, most folks would be ready to call it quits. But not Command Chief Master Sgt. Stephen S. Moore of the New Jersey Air National Guard.
Even as the veteran noncommissioned officer nears the mandatory retirement age of 60, he's still ready and willing to answer the nation's call to arms.
"I feel like I'm chumpin' out because I have to retire in November and there's a war on," he said. "I just hope we've got terrorism beat (by then) and our country can go back to whatever the new norm is, whatever that's going to be."
Moore, of Galloway, N.J., first answered Uncle Sam's call back in the early 1960s. A four-year stint as a Navy aviation ordnance specialist included a short tour in Vietnam. When he got out, he joined the New Jersey Air National Guard and has been with the 177th Fighter Wing here ever since.
Along with being a guardsman, Moore landed a civil service technician job as the wing munitions branch chief.
"The Guard gave me the best of both worlds," Moore said. "I could raise a family, see them. I knew I would have to deploy periodically, but that was OK. The Guard allowed me to do what I liked to do best."
Moore said he has always liked working around airplanes and ordnance -- bombs, weapons, missiles, munitions. "It can be a risky business, but we're well trained to do our job," he said.
"We know that when the enemy's coming over the hill, that piece of ordnance that we've put on that airplane is going to take care of business and protect us," Moore said. "That's what we're here for. We're going to make the enemy die for his country."
On Sept. 11, 2001, Moore was on the flight line with his troops at the wing's home base near Atlantic City, N.J. He said the wing changed dramatically in the aftershock of the terrorist attacks.
"The tradition of the Guard is that you throw your plow down and pick your musket up," he said. On that day, he noted, the New Jersey Air Guardsmen did just that. "Minutes after those airplanes hit, everybody became a warrior," he said. "We were out there loading aircraft with live ordnance, getting aircraft ready to fly, getting them ready for war."
The Air Guard members made him proud. "Everybody came out to try to help," he said. "People were calling in from home saying they'd get here as soon as they could. They knew our mission was to protect the United States, and we were ready to do that within a very short period of time. We were ready to go to war."
Moore noted that National Guard units are especially close- knit groups. "A lot of guys went to school together, grew up together or are related. It's a family organization. We're closer to our officers and to each other. We know each other personally and professionally, which I think is a good thing."
Even though the 177th has been exceptionally busy since Sept. 11, Moore said, people don't complain because they know it's for a valid reason.
"I think we had a rude awakening Sept. 11, that we are as vulnerable as any other country," he said. "It was nice to see how everybody drew in together. The flag started flying again. People are becoming more patriotic. Some of the issues that were issues before tended to be put aside. We're all one. We're all Americans. We're going to go get the job done."