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Highlight of my career

Col. Sal Nodjomian, the 96th Air Base Wing commander, salutes the new Airmen at the basic military training graduation parade at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.  (Courtesy photo)

Col. Sal Nodjomian, the 96th Air Base Wing commander, salutes the new Airmen at the basic military training graduation parade at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I have spoken the words "highlight of my career" several times during my nearly 23 years, whether it was re-enlisting my top senior NCO while repelling 100 feet off a water tower at Fairchild AFB or escorting five original Tuskegee Airmen around the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. This phrase was redefined for me because of an opportunity I had just a few weeks ago.

My former group superintendent asked me to officiate his retirement ceremony at Lackland AFB. I gratefully accepted. He is one of the finest leaders, teachers and mentors I've had the honor of serving beside. As one final act of mentorship, he arranged for me to be the reviewing official for the basic military training graduation parade scheduled the day after his ceremony.

The retirement was an outstanding event, with more than 100 family and friends in attendance listening, laughing, and often crying as we recounted the chief's amazing accomplishments. We used photographs, music, and a lot of "war stories" to paint the impressive canvas of his career. I was once again reminded how the ceremony is just as important for family and friends as it is for the member. It was tremendously rewarding to watch family and friends approach the chief afterward and say, "Wow, I didn't know you did all those great things."

The next day, I was on the reviewing stand giving the order to "March the command in review." I saluted 750 recruits and training instructors as they passed the stand with unbridled pride and in brilliant formation. Once they marched back to their designated areas, I made a few remarks before administering the Oath of Office. I honestly don't recall what "indispensible wisdom" I shared with them, but I do recall with absolute clarity how I felt.

As I peered over my shoulder and saw the chief I had just retired, and then returned my view to the newly minted Airmen, I realized the unique duality of this setting. I played a small part in closing a chapter in the chief's distinguished career and had just written the first line in 700-plus new stories.

To say the combination of retiring a 30-plus-year chief and serving as a BMT reviewing official in a 24-hour period was an exhilarating experience would be a gross understatement.
Instead, I'll simply label it--the "highlight of my career."