The one ‘constant’ - 1 SOW member retires after nearly 47 years of service

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natalie Fiorilli
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Walking into the 15th Special Operations Squadron, Carol Lister opened the door to find an empty, dark building.

She hesitantly turned on the lights and proceeded upstairs and down the hall to her desk, thinking everyone would be in shortly.

By mid-morning, she had a sudden realization: everyone was gone.

It was the fall of 2004 and Lister had recently taken on a new role as the secretary for the 15th SOS at Hurlburt Field, Florida. At the time, crews were leaving for tours in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.

“Everyone was always deploying, and when they weren’t deploying they were training,” she said. “There was a lot of flying and it was just crazy.”

She would go on to have many more days of working in a quiet and nearly-empty squadron as 15th SOS members were continuously tasked with missions and training, worldwide.

‘A revolving door’

Lister enlisted in the Air Force in February 1973 as a radar systems technician on the F-4E Phantom II.

After her enlistment, she began her civil service career as a secretary with the Air Force Armament Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in November 1980.

From there, she moved on to assignments with the 96th Test Wing and 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin, and then with the 505th Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, before joining the 15th SOS.

In her role as the 15th SOS secretary, Lister provided administrative support for the squadron commander and helped to in-process and out-process Airmen. Additionally, she took on roles as the unit’s security manager and helped with tasks like supporting the squadron’s drug screening requirements, among a number of other responsibilities.

“I had to handle a lot of the additional duties because I was the one person that was always there,” she added, jokingly.

While at first it was an adjustment to work in a squadron with such a fast-paced tempo, Lister said she quickly became used to it and felt proud to be part of the mission.

Throughout her time with the 15th SOS, she remembers times when crews left in a moment’s notice - responding to natural disasters, among other emergencies and conflicts.

“We were often the first ones to respond to things and be there to help, and they were there for so many people that really needed them,” Lister said.

With the squadron’s quick-moving environment and frequent personnel and leadership changes, the 15th SOS felt a lot like a revolving door for Lister.

Closing the loop 

Nineteen years and thousands of out-processed troops later, Lister finds herself bidding farewell to the squadron.

This month, surrounded by her family and friends, as well as current and former squadron members, the 15th SOS celebrated Lister’s career as she closed the loop on nearly 47 years working with the U.S. Air Force.

Despite all of the changes within the squadron, there was always one constant, former 15th SOS commander retired Brig. Gen. Christopher Ireland noted after the ceremony.

“Throughout everything, she has provided continuity for our Airmen, our families and our mission,” Ireland said.

Looking back, she was happy to have been that ‘constant’ for the squadron.

“The military has given us so much,” she said. “I was glad to be a part of a flying squadron and be there for them - like they were for all of us.”