Chief Abbot retires after 30 years of service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Heather Heiney
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Billy Abbott will soon face an event he has dreaded for 30 years -- retirement.

"Not getting to do what you love anymore is a hard pill to swallow," said Chief Abbott, 81st Training Group superintendent.

He began his Air Force journey when he stepped off the bus at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in October 1981 and will be transitioning into a new chapter of his life at his retirement ceremony here at Keesler July 7.

"There have been numerous tangible changes over the last 30 years," ChiefAbbott said.

He said that base pay for an E-1 in October 1981 was $551 a month, compared to $1,467 today; he went from cashing his check at the cashiers cage to direct deposit; there were 570,302 Airmen on active duty in 1981 compared to 328,847 today; technology transformed from mainframe computers to desktop; uniforms and insignia also changed as Airmen went from green fatigues, to the battle dress uniform to the current airman battle uniform.

He also said that the Air Force has increased fitness expectations and is a more educated force overall.

During the course of his career, Chief Abbott was trained in telecommunications and given 12 assignments at 11 different duty stations.

One of those assignments placed him at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

In an article published Sept. 19, 2006 by the Sentinel-Record of Hot Springs National Park,Ark., ChiefAbbott said, "I never felt the room shake or heard anything when the plane hit the Pentagon."

"As I walked out, I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the other side of the building and saw a huge cloud of smoke," he continued in the article. "There were peopleand ambulances going everywhere. I found my Airmen and instructed them to go ahead and go home.

"We all went back the next morning and you could still smell the smoke. We had to show the terrorists they could not and would not stop us from performing our duties."

He said that the events of 9/11 were particularly difficult on his family because they were watching the events unfold on television and knew he was in the Pentagon that day. It took hours after the attack to get in contact with his family and let them know he was safe.

His family has always been supportive of his career and now both of his children are pursuing Air Force careers. His daughter is a staff sergeant at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and his son is currently attending pharmacy school with the hope of receiving a commission after graduation.

"Bruce and Ashley have grown up to be outstanding adults, have always been supportive of my career and I am extremely proud to be their father," the chief said. "My wife, Kim, has been such a blessing. She has a heart of gold, is always supportive and I couldn't have asked for more."

Chief Abbott said that the greatest honor of his military career was when he escorted the remains of Chief Master Sgt. Jack Pearce from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to his family in Milford, Pa.

"If you had told me on March 29, 1972, when I was 10 years old, that an Airman had died in the Vietnam War and that 36 years later, I would be escorting that Airman home to his family, I would havenever believed it." Chief Abbott said, "What an honor."

The chief urges Airmen just beginning their careers to uphold the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do, both on and off duty.

"Never forget what you learned in basic military training -- those are the minimum standards," Chief Abbott said, "Uphold those standards, enforce those standards, live by those standards."

The chief urges others to be proud of who they are, the work they do and what they represent as members of the Air Force.

"The Air Force has given me more than I could have ever imagined or dreamed of and for that, I'm truly thankful," the chief said. "I love the Air Force and life will never be the same after I take off that uniform for the last time."