AF civil servant dedicates 48 years to mission

  • Published
  • By Dianne Moffett
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
After a nearly half-century career spanning the globe, an Air Force civil servant believes dedication to the mission is most important for a successful career.

James A. Patterson, chief of Technical Training Requirements Division, Air Education and Training Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, retires from the Air Force Jan. 3 after 48 selfless years.

"Words coworkers used to describe Jim were patient, valuable, smart, a great boss, and the three C's--cool, calm and collected," said Dr. Todd A. Fore, Air Force Personnel Center executive director, as he presided over Patterson's formal ceremony, Dec. 17.

A native of Salem, Mo., Patterson enlisted in the Air Force in 1965 after graduating from high school. After basic training, he was sent to Nah Trang Air Base, Vietnam. Patterson steadily moved up in rank as a weapons team member, chief, instructor, loadmaster and airborne gunner.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in December 1969 for his actions as a C-123 loadmaster while flying through intense fire in Vietnam.

Patterson was honorably discharged in 1974 and soon began an Air Force civil career as a weapons instructor and training specialist at Lowry Air Force Base, Col. Patterson said what he loved most about his career was traveling the world. He spent 11 years in Saudi Arabia as a training administrator, logistics management specialist and a foreign military sales program manager.

His family accompanied him on two tours in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, one in the 1980s and another in 1990 and said he and his family experienced a little culture shock.

"Prayer came three times a day. My wife and daughters underwent major wardrobe changes and women couldn't drive." But, he said, "Accepting a diverse culture was a requirement for success and provided a lifetime of positive experiences for both me and my family."

When asked about what major changes he experienced throughout his career in the Air Force, Patterson spoke about advancements in technology.

"It ranges from typewriters to aircraft systems that instantly diagnose faults (in aircraft) using a PMA [portable maintenance aid] and quickly determines a fix," said Patterson. "Without these advancements, the Air Force might still be flying propelled powered aircraft."

As a training instructor, Patterson remembers filling out paper deck orders using typewriters to order parts or request maintenance, which sometimes took weeks, he said.

"Now, maintenance, logistics and tracking a student's training progress is fully automated, simplified and instant," he said.

Patterson said he will work just as hard in his next career, but for a different boss, his wife, Nora.

Before he gets to the honey-do list though, he said he will do some state-side traveling with his wife, as they have never seen such attractions as the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. As far as what he will miss most about the Air Force, he said it's the Airmen.

"Airmen continuously exhibit outstanding professionalism to get the job done and defend our country and way of life , especially during these times of limited resources, budget cuts, sequestration, and furloughs" Patterson said.

His advice to people who are starting their Air Force careers is to remember they are United States Airmen and the mission and needs of the Air Force come first.

"Everyone should strive to meet the necessary challenges this brings," he said. "Then, take advantage of all that the Air Force has to offer to fulfill individual goals and dreams."