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Command Chief considers the Air Force his family

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The new 72nd Air Base Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant, Brian Lavoie, considers the Air Force his family.

"It is my belief that when we joined the Air Force, we joined a new family," he said. "Every Airman, regardless of rank, is a member of that family."

When he enlisted in the service, "They forgot my first name; I was Airman Lavoie," he said. "If you look at my uniform, I actually have two names on my shirt: Lavoie and U.S. Air Force. I like to say that the U.S. Air Force is my new last name. We all should respect our family name."

The chief also has a firm opinion about service. "So long as you're carrying a military ID, you are on duty," he maintained. "You have a responsibility to uphold all of our AFIs and orders and traditions at all times."

This is Chief Lavoie's second tour at Tinker Air Force Base. He was here previously for almost eight years, September 1993 to May 2001, when he worked as a data system specialist in the Electronic System Center.

The ESC was a tenant unit. "That experience helped me understand how important the contributions of all associate units are to the success of this installation and the Air Force," the Chief said. "We need to capitalize on the attributes of each organization to reinforce the Team Tinker mantra."

Chief Lavoie said his goals have evolved during the 28 years he has served in the Air Force. "Over time it became less about what I wanted and more about giving back."
When he joined the Air Force in 1984, "My goal was to come in for four years and get out," he recalled. "As an air traffic controller, I was determined to separate from the Air Force and make more money in the civilian sector." President Reagan fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981, "so I knew I could have a chance at a steady career," the chief said.

One of his goals was to finish his education. He completed an associate's degree in airway science from Community College of the Air Force; earned a Bachelor of Science degree in professional aeronautics, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a Master's Degree from Webster University, in computer resource information management.

Now his goal is helping others. "There are Airmen and families I can help," he said. "When I decided to stay past 20 years, it was to give back all the lessons and leadership that I had learned. I think most chiefs out there would say the same thing. I serve because my Airmen serve, and they need to know that there are leaders who care about them and their families."

Chief Lavoie contends the Air Force has a need for Airmen development, "not just professional development, but well-rounded 'whole person' development," he said. "Airmen want to be great. They want to be led by leaders who know their jobs and can show the way."

He said he has developed "some initiatives to help our Airmen achieve their full potential," and intends to unveil them "over the next few months."

Both of the chief's parents served in the Air Force, but the reason he joined was "so I could provide a stable and happy life for a girl I wanted to marry," he said. "For the last 27 years she's stuck by me and our three boys. The Air Force has provided my family and me a great life that has been full of experiences I could not have expected had I stayed in my hometown" of Portland, Ore.

Besides Tinker, the chief's assignments have included bases in California, Germany, Korea, Washington state, and South Dakota.

Chief Lavoie was the 1996 Air Force Materiel Command Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, and was one of the Air Force Twelve Outstanding Airmen of the Year in 1996.