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72nd ABW command chief set to retire

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- After a 30-year military career, 72nd Air Base Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Brian Lavoie will retire May 22 and, with his wife, Jennifer, head for the Pacific northwest to pass out free smiles.

"It's time to reflect on this stage of my life, and an opportunity to do something completely different," said Chief Lavoie. He said he's looking forward to the next 50 years with Jennifer, walking on the beach and sitting in the sand watching the sunsets.

"Now I can go to work and live where I choose to live, while discovering who I am outside the uniform," he said.

"Chief Lavoie is a true servant-leader. He has been the guardian of AF Core Values for 30 years, even before they were put to paper by Gen Fogleman. I can't imagine a finer role model for Airmen of all ranks and career fields. We will miss him, his wife Jennifer, and their children, and wish them all the best as they start the next chapter in their lives" said Col. Christopher Azzano, 72nd Air Base Wing commander.

Chief Lavoie looks forward to is visiting with his sons Paul, Michael, and Phillip, and watching their military careers progress.

When it was time for the chief to re-enlist for his last four years, his son, Navy Lt. Paul Lavoie, officiated the ceremony via video teleconference. Lt. Lavoie later went on to commission the chief's other son, 1st Lt. Michael Lavoie, in the Air Force.

Looking back, Chief Lavoie said he has many memorable moments in his career. Prior to one of his deployments, he remembers having an important conversation with his wife and telling her that he was going to take care of the Airmen, no matter what, and he didn't know if he would be back. "I was glad we had that conversation. It left me free to do my job," he said.

In 1996, then Staff Sergeant Lavoie was recognized as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 1995. Attending the Air Force Association dinner in Washington, D.C., his parents sat in the audience of about 800 people and got to see him receive recognition of being truly among the best.

"With my wife by my side, I stood proud knowing that I had worked hard, taken care of my family and cared for other Airmen and their families," he said. "There were many people who supported me and Jennifer along the way, as well as worked with us to accomplish many of the things we did, so I thank all of them."

In the past two years with the 72nd Air Base Wing, Chief Lavoie has been there to help Team Tinker members face many challenges. Among the challenges are sequestration and reduced resources to care for Airmen and their families, furlough of the civilian Airmen who are important to the mission, preparing for and executing the government shutdown while telling Airmen it will be OK. Also, recovering from the May 2013 tornadoes and helping to build new relationships and communities.

"One of the biggest challenges, I think, is to convince people to embrace change and that change can be a positive thing," he said. "Anyone on a two-year assignment is really challenged to learn the mission, people, resources, and processes they are responsible for or control. When that is achieved, a strategic look can be accomplished and we can help take Tinker into the next decade."

He said the success we have had in creating an atmosphere of resilience, respect and wingmanship across Team Tinker is something to be proud of. "Tinker's resiliency program is the benchmark for Air Force Materiel Command and my hope is that the Air Force will embrace it, too," the chief said.

Chief Lavoie's advice for the incoming 72nd ABW command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Christopher, is "to be yourself."

"People will get to know the real you and appreciate your sincerity and transparency," Chief Lavoie said. "This position isn't about you, it's about giving back to the Airmen and the Air Force all the skills and leadership training you have been provided. Work every day to make Tinker a better place for people to live, work and play."

To the 72nd ABW Wildcatters, the chief says, "Laugh a little. There are plenty of tough days out there and sometimes you just need to laugh."

Chief Lavoie has been giving away free smiles his entire time at Tinker, and he said he's received more than he's given.

"Take care of one another," he said. "Give away smiles to brighten someone's day and give compliments. Saying something nice to someone can change their mood or even their outlook on life. It doesn't cost anything to tell an Airman they did a good job or that you're proud of them."

Chief Lavoie's retirement ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. May 22 at the Tinker Club.