Gaylor shares mottos for life

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Heather Heiney
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairsq
Just like a favorite pair of old jeans, it is easy to slip into routines and patterns of behavior. After all, they are comfortable, they are familiar and they have always served us well in the past. But eventually, that favorite pair of jeans will begin to fray and sprout holes until it is tattered. Our routines and patterns of behavior can also sprout holes and begin to tatter. Not necessarily because they are wrong, but because change is the only certain thing in life.

Every now and then I meet people that immediately and irrevocably change the way I think and inspire me to examine the way I've been living my life.

Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert Gaylor, the fifth CMSAF and now the oldest living person to hold that position, is one of those people.

Born in 1930, the chief joined the Air Force only a year after it became a separate military branch and even after his retirement in 1979, he never stopped serving the Air Force and his country.

He visited Keesler Sept. 12-13 with the purpose of speaking at the Mathies NCO Academy graduation, but spent both days speaking to as many people as his schedule would allow.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak twice during his visit, but would have loved the opportunity to just sit in a comfortable chair, sip on coffee and listen to him talk all day.

I quickly filled a small notebook while listening to the chief, two phrases truly resonated with me.

The first was, "You cannot be all things to all people."

As the CMSAF, Gaylor had the opportunity to visit many bases and often told his people, "I work for you."

During one speech a senior master sergeant yelled back, "If you work for me, you're fired."

Gaylor said he was hurt by that because he gave every bit of his effort every day to make things better for the people in the Air Force.

"Not everyone likes you," Gaylor said. "Some people don't like you because you're too damn likeable."

No matter what the person, issue, place or opinion, there will always be someone who doesn't like him, her or it. Gaylor said the best we can do is be fair, honest, upfront and transparent.

"And then one day, it just ends," the chief said. "Then, you have to ask yourself, how did I do?"

"Did I give people hot French fries?"

The second phrase is one that Gaylor said is his motto for life, "People like hot French fries."

One day he was eating lunch at a small hamburger stand that didn't even have electricity and he saw an 11-year-old boy named Juan sprint away with a sack full of hamburgers. When the boy returned panting several minutes later he asked the boy why he did that and his simple answer was, "People like hot French fries."

The point of the story, to me, is that Juan could have just as easily sauntered to his destination and back, going through the repetitive motions of delivering the product, but when the customer received the order, the fries would have been cold. Instead, Juan put every bit of his effort into the job. While Gaylor said he doesn't know whatever happened to Juan, hundreds of Airmen now know what he did. Putting in effort can be difficult, and we may not always see the results immediately, but the effort will always mean something to the person receiving the hot fries.

Just like Juan, the chief explained that he has always given his full attention and effort to everything he has done, every day of his life, because, "Why wouldn't you?"

"I don't eat an apple, I devour it," Gaylor said. "And if that doesn't light your fire, your logs are wet."