LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
Chief Master Sgt. Gary L. Spaulding was retired from the Kentucky Air National Guard during a ceremony here June 12, concluding a 35-year career of distinguished service to the Commonwealth and nation.
Spaulding, military personnel management officer for the Air Component at Joint Forces Headquarters — Kentucky, also received a Meritorious Service Medal and Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal at the event, which was attended by more than 100 friends, family and colleagues.
Maj. Gen. Charles Walker, who officiated, called Spaulding “the life, the soul and the conscience” of the Kentucky Air Guard for more than three decades.
“There is no one I've served with in that time who has had as great an impact as Gary Spaulding has had on an organization,” said Walker, director of the Office of Complex Investigations at the National Guard Bureau and a former chief of staff at Headquarters, Kentucky Air National Guard.
“Gary Spaulding has been able to build relationships, not only at this organization, but at every level in the National Guard,” Walker told the audience, seated before a C-130 Super Hercules aircraft in the Maintenance Hangar at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base.
“And they’re real because he’s a real person who treats everyone with dignity and respect. If I could say one thing about him, he sets the standard for human beings and treating people like they matter.
“He made us all better,” Walker continued. “He is the definitive wingman, and there is no higher compliment for an Airman: Someone you can count on through the good times, but more importantly, during the bad and trying times.
“So I stand here with no notes, because I’m speaking from the heart about a man I respect, and I’m truly honored to be a part of his ceremony today. He’s one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met, irrespective of rank, position or status.”
Spaulding enlisted in the Kentucky Air Guard on Jan. 10, 1987. In the 35 years since, he has held numerous posts at the 123rd Military Personnel Flight, including roles in customer support, force management and personnel management. Before being named military personnel management officer at Headquarters — a job Spaulding will continue to hold as a federal civilian employee — he also served as personnel superintendent.
During his military career, Spaulding deployed for Operations JUMP START and RED FLAG, and was mobilized on federal active duty for three years in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE, the mission to defend the homeland following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
As MPMO, Spaulding is the liaison between the 123rd Airlift Wing and the National Guard Bureau for all personnel actions. He provides staff assistance and guidance concerning Air Guard personnel, administration, training and recruiting to the adjutant general, the assistant adjutant general for Air, state staff and individual units. Spaulding also coordinates appointments, evaluations, promotions, discharges and separations; and manages awards and decorations across the organization.
In his comments to the audience, Spaulding thanked his friends and family for their support through the years, saying he “couldn’t have done this without you.”
He also spoke about the uniquely fulfilling nature of military service, something he did not yet comprehend at the age of 17.
“I didn’t understand how special the organization that I had just joined really was,” Spaulding recalled. “I didn’t understand that I was a part of a very unique club, that club being the 1 percent — because only 1 percent of our nation has the privilege of wearing this uniform.
“I spent my entire career as a human resources specialist, a job that I absolutely love. I have the privilege and the opportunity to impact people in so many positive ways. Man, what a job. Once I was hired permanently, I knew that this was God’s plan for me. And honestly, folks, for me personally, there’s no better feeling than to assist people in helping them change their lives.”
True to his character, Spaulding has also been working to improve the civilian community as a member of 100 Black Men of Louisville, a group focused on youth mentoring, education, economic development, health and wellness.
As chair of the group’s health and wellness committee, Spaulding is currently partnering with Metro Parks to establish a youth fitness program to battle sedentary lifestyles.
“According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, unfortunately the state of Kentucky leads the way for childhood obesity for youth at the ages of 10 to 17 — a 23.8 percent rate. And that rate jumps to 28.7 for kids of color.
“I’m challenging you today to get involved — help lead and guide our young men and women,” Spaulding said in his closing remarks. “They are our future. They need us now more than ever.
“Thank you all so, so much for attending today. I truly appreciate it. God bless America.”