Counting Down to the Day

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Kent Kagarise
  • 442nd Fighter Wing, Public Affairs
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo.-- Airmen born during the year Senior Master Sgt. Billy Day, 442nd Aerospace Medicine superintendent, enlisted- 35 years ago- could have been counting down the days until their own retirement on Saturday, August 6, when Day rendered his final salute and retired from the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whitman Air Force Base, Missouri.

Day first enlisted in the wing in 1981 when it was located in Kansas City’s Richards-Gebaur Air Reserve Station and known as the 442nd Tactical Airlift Wing.

Thirty-five years, four months and five days later, according to Day’s count, he said farewell.

“I’ll miss the comradery as I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many outstanding folks over the years,” said Day. “There are movers, shakers and quiet, get-it-done types who are the backbone of military service – it has been an honor to serve with them, whether peer, subordinate or superior.”

While the wing has moved bases, it keeps traits unique to the Air Force Reserve, including familiar talent like Day, who build relationships over years in the same unit. Day made friendships that spanned decades, compared to the three or four year permanent change of station assignments seen by the active duty.

Master Sgt. Tisha Good, 442nd Medical Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge physical exams, said Day took her under his wing when she was hired as a junior air-reserve technician.

“He was always available for guidance on many different situations that have come up in the office and he taught me the basics of the job,” she said. “He is definitely an Icon here at the 442 MDS.”

Day defines a great senior NCO as somebody who is always looking at new ways, new information and new skills to bring to future Airmen by implementing three key characteristics.

“First a great SNCO is never too busy to listen, second, a large dose of empathy helps – the ability to understand what the member is going through, their frustrations and their doubts can help them work their way through problems and get back on a level playing field,” he said. “Third, a SNCO should never stop learning; whether it is outside education leading to a degree, or furthering their own skills and knowledge of the job they do.”

Senior Master Sgt. Leo Brown, 442nd MDS First Sergeant collaborated with Day on a regular basis and described him as affable and good humored.

“With the stress and tempo of military commitments, things can get a little dicey, people can feel overwhelmed, but Billy has been a pillar of stability in a world of chaos and he's never slow with a quick quip or joke that lightens everyone's mood – he will be greatly missed,”said Brown.

Day’s advice to young Airmen is to learn as much as they possibly can and never stop pursuing a better understanding of their job.

“Try to have a working knowledge of your colleague’s jobs so that you can know why things happen as they do,” said Day. “Read the regulations and keep current with them. Strive for any learning opportunity you can reach or be approved for in order to become an expert.”

With Day having compiled over 35 years of experience and knowledge through interacting with a large portion of the wing, Lt. Col. Jill Blake, 442nd MDS medical administrator said he will be hard to replace.

“I have learned to rely on him for almost any issue I have – he is the guy to help me learn the budget for the unit and the ins and outs of daily medical life. He also has contacts Air Force Reserve Command wide and can get you an answer within a few minutes on any given day on any given topic,” said Blake.

Day said he understands his shoes will be hard to fill because he interacted with many people who kept operations moving forward on a daily basis.

“It will take time for my successor to build up the contacts and rapport, build experience and gain knowledge of medical operations, but I wish them the best – I’ve told the people I have to leave behind that I’m only a phone call away,” he said.

Col. Edward Cullumber, 442nd MDS commander, said through Day’s work at the medical squadron, he touched the lives of many people and ensured wing members received professional and top-notch service.

“Billy’s career has embodied our Air Force core values – he is a man of high integrity who places the needs of others before himself and has done so in an excellent manner. We can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for our unit, our wing, our Air Force and our nation!” said Cullumber. “We wish him all the best.”

Thirty-five years, four months and five days after Day has retired there will be a 442nd FW family tree bearing his fruits through Airmen carrying on his tradition and legacy.