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NEWS | Nov. 10, 2014

Chronicle of a chief: Retired, but not tired

By Airman 1st Class Devin Scott Michaels 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The year was 1945, World War II would soon end, and the Cold War was soon to begin. Seventeen year-old Mark Flockhart, deciding he had no future working in a steel mill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, lied about his age and was drafted into in the U.S. Army Air Corps two years before it became the U.S. Air Force.

Almost 60 years later, retired Chief Master Sgt. Flockhart stays connected to the U.S. Air Force by volunteering at USAF Hospital Langley once a week, while golfing twice a week and going to the gym three times weekly.

"I found my niche when I joined the service," said Flockhart. "I loved it; stayed 29 years."

Before Flockhart retired, he worked as the maintenance superintendent on the flightline at Langley Air Force Base, programming an Airborne Warning and Control System for an E-3 Sentry aircraft.

"I was also the first senior enlisted advisor for the wing on this base," said Flockhart. "Making chief was the best thing that ever happened in my career. It was great. At the time, there weren't many Chiefs; they had only been around for four and a half years and most retired after making it. I loved it, so I waited another seven years to retire."

Flockhart's service to the U.S. Air Force includes tours to England, Turkey, Libya, Panama, Vietnam and Thailand.

"General Robert Dixon, the Tactical Air Command commander in 1973, picked me to go with him to all the TAC bases in Europe," said Flockhart. "I was the senior chief on the base. He wanted me around to check maintenance."

During Flockhart's tours to Vietnam and Thailand, he spent most nights awake, volunteering his time to benefit his fellow Service members' morale, sometimes never going to bed.

"I was in Vietnam and Thailand as an avionics superintendent on a B-52," said Flockhart. "During my spare time, I would head over to the (Military Auxiliary Radio Station), where I ran phone patches for Service members back to the states, so they could talk to their families."

At 55 years old, Flockhart finally decided to retire. However, he was not ready to settle down.

"After I retired, I spent nine years operating the cyclotron for the College of William & Mary," said Flockhart. "Then I went to NASA and worked on a space shuttle, taking the data that they were getting off the heat tiles and converting it to digital information."

After that, Flockhart worked at Langley Air Force Base's dental clinic for nine years, at dermatology for seven years, orthopedics for seven years and made his way to the optometry clinic, where he has volunteered for another seven years.

"Work keeps me young," said Flockhart. "I started working when I was about 12 years old. My social security started when I was 14, because I helped a brick layer build a house and he put me on his payroll."

Flockhart has not stopped working to better the world and those around him since he was just a boy. He believes discipline and a good work ethic are the key to a long, prosperous and proud life.

"I'm really proud of what I've accomplished," said Flockhart. "I came from a poor family and I worked my way up, made chief and I'm still working at 87 years old, still kicking around. You've got to reflect your pride in the Air Force by going out there and helping people, not just for your own personal satisfaction, but because of the effect it has on them and the Air Force itself."

Flockhart says he's dedicated "110 percent" of himself to everything he's done, and it has made him happy. Airmen and civilians around the optometry clinic show Flockhart their respect and admiration by calling him "sir" and "chief." U.S. Air Force Airmen -- and everyone else -- may have something they can learn from this chief.