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Developing the chief within

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

(From left to right) Robert D. Gaylor, fifth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force and Senior Master Sgt. John Chacon, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent, light the chief candle, Feb. 15, 2019, at Club Holloman on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Gaylor was the guest speaker at the Chief Recognition Ceremony where Chacon was recognized as a chief select. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

Senior Master Sgt. John Chacon, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent, poses for a photo with his family, Feb. 15, 2019, at Club Holloman on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Chacon and his family gathered at the club to celebrate him being selected for chief master sergeant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

Robert D. Gaylor, fifth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, poses for a photo with Senior Master Sgt. John Chacon, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendednt and his family, Feb. 15, 2019, at Club Holloman on Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Chacon’s family attended the Chief Recognition Ceremony to celebrate him being selected for chief. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Autumn Vogt)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

His brown eyes flickered to the ceiling where a light had gone out – it was his task to replace it. After climbing a ladder, his strong hands began exchanging the burnt bulb with a new one.

He looked below and saw Col. David Buck, his wing commander, striding towards the command office and his mind was racing – he had just recently gained his bachelor’s degree. While he knew the colonel was busy, he could not help feeling he needed Buck’s advice on commissioning.

“… I said I wanted to help Airmen and he told me to become a chief,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Chacon, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron superintendent. “Twenty three years I’ve been in the Air Force, I’ve wanted to be a chief since 2009.”

Throughout his career, Chacon has worked many different places and had several special duties, such as a Noncommissioned Officer Academy instructor, Airman Leadership School commandant and a Military Training Leader for pararescue students. Each task helped him become a more well-rounded leader.

“I came in as a utilities apprentice in the civil engineer career field. After that, I was a Military Training Leader for pararescue and then I went back into civil engineering,” said Chacon. “(My different duties) not only helped me to become a chief; they made me a better NCO, a better senior NCO and a better overall leader.”

While the different duties gave Chacon new challenges, he acquired mentors along the way who encouraged him and provided direction. These mentors drove him to simply be the best Airman he could.

“Chief Master Sgt. Colon-Lopez was the guy who turned my career around,” said Chacon. “I was always the hardest worker but not the most professional. He’s the one that taught me the whole Airman concept. He led by example and that’s who I mirrored my leadership style after.”

Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, United States Africa Command senior enlisted leader, who has known Chacon for 14 years, is proud to see someone of his caliber ascend through the ranks. He said Chacon has never made his work about himself and is constantly seeking opportunities to help others become better.

“(John Chacon) is humble, driven and a quiet professional,” said Colon-Lopez. “He always owned his duties and accepted responsibility for his actions. He is also a devoted family man, serving as a balanced example for his troops.”

Although Chacon only wanted to be a chief for 10 years, his advice to Airmen who aim to be a chief at a low rank is to not lose sight of their current job. He said if an opportunity presents itself – take it. There is always room for improvement regardless of rank.

“If you’re an Airman, be the best Airman you can be. If you’re an NCO, be the best NCO you can be. If you’re a great senior NCO, be a better senior NCO,” said Chacon. “If you are the best every year in those three tiers, you’ll get promoted. If you start thinking about chief as an Airman, you may lose sight.”

Though Chacon now has a line number for chief, he views himself as an Airman first. His main concern is for Airmen – their well-being, development and success.

“It doesn’t matter where I go, I want to help Airmen,” said Chacon. “When I was an Airman Leadership School commandant or deployed, I was with the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. It’s not even just Airmen anymore, I would say just helping warriors out there be the best they can be.”

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