Trading in taps to turn a wrench

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Victoria Sneed
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The mournful sound of taps played by a bugle, the rhythmic heel beats of marching in time, and the barking of commands is all in a day's work when Airmen are assigned to base honor guard duty.

For Staff Sgt. William Anderson, 901st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron propulsion craftsman, early mornings and late nights of drill and ceremony were a way of life for almost three years. As the NCO in charge, long hours of training, weekends spent traveling to hundreds of ceremonies, and constant critiques of Airmen's performances were part of who he was.

"Honor guard is all about polite, humble service to the public and helping families mourn," said the Tennessee native. "On the other hand, maintenance is all about the mission and being willing to do whatever it takes to launch an aircraft."

This change of mindset was difficult, but also beneficial for Anderson, who said going outside his career field helped him grow.

"Honor guard helped me to step back and change my leadership style with each class," he said. "I apply that now on a smaller scale."

After being out of his career field for so long, Anderson said the transition back was difficult for him.

"Everything I knew was gone; I had to start over," he said. "As I worked day to day, things started to come back."

Reverting back to hands-on work may have been difficult for a few weeks, but leaving the regular Air Force job helped Anderson see a bigger picture.

"Stepping out helped me work on my teamwork ability," said the father of four. "It's more than just one person. It's everyone working together to complete the mission."

This change in Anderson has not only been recognized by himself, but by his supervision as well.

"He is more motivated and willing to improve himself," said Master Sgt. Spencer Tope, 901st SOAMXS production supervisor. "He is one of the people I can give a task and he goes from 'A to Z' with it. I don't have to come back and check on him. He also goes out of his way to mentor and train other Airmen."

That training is what Anderson believes to be the key to high morale.

"In honor guard we trained until there were no discrepancies," Anderson said. "When you train you know exactly what you are doing and then you have time to relax. I try and spread what I have learned to help others grow."

Time away from the flightline also helped Anderson recognize when an Airman might not be the right fit for their current career field. He encourages them to seek advice from the career assistance advisor to find something that suits them better.

"I love my job; maintenance, the aircraft, getting dirty, all of it. I want my Airmen to feel the same way," he said. "You never know how happy you can be unless you go out there and test the waters."