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Holcomb's Road to Chief

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leandra Garcia
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Full of pride, laughter and nostalgia, newly promoted Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy P. Holcomb describes the last 25 years of his life in service to our country. His journey wasn't without challenges despite his  rise to the current position as a senior enlisted leader at the 33rd Fighter Wing. 

          Joining the military is something that Holcomb often spoke about while working at a fast-food restaurant after high school with no real plans. It was an idea he took action on and turned into reality. 

           “I walked into the office and spoke to an Air Force recruiter who told me the unfiltered truth, and answered my questions in a way that wasn’t begging me to join,” said Holcomb. 

          The recruiters honesty made it clear that this was the branch of service for him, so in 1996, he officially joined the ranks of our world’s greatest Air Force. 

          “During my first assignment Incirlik Air Base, I had fun and enjoyed being a cable maintenance technician, but I felt that the Air Force may not be a right fit for me,” said Holcomb.

           After Incirlik, he received orders to Hill AFB, Utah, a turning point in Holcomb’s career. This is where he met Airman Claudia Vargas, who was an active duty dental technician and later became his wife. 

          He also met a specific master sergeant from outside of his career field that saw potential in him. This master sergeant sought out Holcomb to mentor him about his struggles, shortcomings, and potential to improve as an Airman, a conversation that shaped his career.

           “Shortly after that hard conversation, I deployed to Kuwait,” said Holcomb. “It wasn’t until I got back when I had that ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment. I couldn’t wait to get out as I was constantly told I wasn’t a good fit for the military, but after long conversations with my wife, who is another mentor of mine, and on the last week of my enlistment I made the decision to reenlist.” 

          Holcomb’s change shocked his leadership and peers, they weren’t convinced he made the right decision staying in the military. His decision was shaped by his conversation with the master sergeant, Claudia, and his experiences while deployed. Although he was maturing and rose to the rank of staff sergeant, Holcomb was still seen by his coworkers as the airman who “couldn’t get it right.” 

            “I got my fresh start at Andrews AFB,” said Holcomb. “Perspective is everything, I turned my ambitions around and realized the force isn’t all about me. I worked to understand the dynamics of the force, after that, I was all in.” 

          Claudia decided to retire to give their daughters a more stable life by settling down in Tampa, Florida. Holcomb has been geographically separated from his family since the move in October 2017, making it four years that they have been apart. 

          “Being away from them never gets easier, but I am so grateful for all the love and support they have given me throughout my career,” said Holcomb. “Having a family who has allowed me to take the opportunities I have been awarded by the Air Force is amazing.” 

          Fast forward 25 years, five deployments and nine duty stations later, Holcomb was one of two Chief selects in the 33rd FW in 2021. He didn’t plan to make a career out of the Air Force, but the military had bigger plans for him.          

            As a Chief, Holcomb has one goal, to take care of his Airmen. Whether he’s encouraging them to seize the moment or to embrace the risk of failure, his dedication to their success is plain to see. 

          “Success to me means watching the people I mentored or worked with grow, to see them get promoted and achieve goals they set for themselves,” said Holcomb. “Knowing that I could’ve made an impact on someone’s life, guided them to success even in the smallest way is what keeps me going.” 

           Holcomb is known throughout the 33rd as being an example of a leader who is approachable, deliberate and adaptive. He explained that the reason he leads the way he does is so that when the time comes for him to hang up his uniform, he ensured the readiness of the future leaders of the Air Force.