Senior NCO serves 25 years with 653rd CLSS
By Holly Birchfield, 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 05, 2007
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Most enlisted Airmen call a base home for a mere four or five years. Master Sgt. John Ferrara isn't like most enlisted Airmen.
Sergeant Ferrara, an aircraft structural maintenance craftsman and an F-15 production supervisor in the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron at Robins, has served his unit's Air Force mission for 25 years.
In 1981, Sergeant Ferrara joined the U.S. Air Force under the Delayed Enlistment Program. He went on active-duty in April 1982, and found himself at Robins with the 2955th Combat Logistics Support Squadron, which became known as the 653rd CLSS in 1992.
The 43-year-old Massachusetts native is still serving at the base where he began his journey in the blue nearly 25 years ago. The senior noncommissioned officer will officially retire from his active-duty Air Force career on May 1.
How has he been in the Air Force a quarter of a century and not ever have experienced the military permanent change of station?
Sergeant Ferrara said his fate was sealed through a culmination of factors.
"With all of my overseas TDYs (temporary duty assignments) and my time in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, I got awarded a long and a short tour and that pushes your overseas return date back to the last time you were overseas," he said.
Sergeant Ferrara said an Airman's overseas return date helps determine when he or she will make a PCS move.
His later overseas return date combined with his family's exceptional medical needs kept the senior NCO right where he started - at Robins.
"I called AFPC (Air Force Personnel Center) several times to check on myself, especially when I came back from Desert Shield and Desert Storm," he said. "They said, 'You're good to go. Go ahead and buy yourself a house.'"
But Sergeant Ferrara said he gives most of the credit for his staying put to God.
"I think God had a hand in it too because I've had some commanders tell me they were going to make sure I get orders and get out of here," he said. "Me and my wife prayed about it. You know, whatever God wanted us to do. Every time we got together and prayed about it, God just told us not to worry about anything right now and I'm still here. I guess it's where he wants me."
While his wife, Annette, and their three children, Anthony, 18, Hannah, 16, and Alisha, 13, have remained in Middle Georgia, Sergeant Ferrara has traveled the world, making stops in Germany, Iceland, Hawaii and other areas to perform aircraft repair and other missions with his unit as he evolved from an apprentice to an aircraft structural maintenance craftsman.
"I worked at the Museum of Aviation a lot when I first got here, putting together a lot of the airplanes and buildings that are out there," he said. "One of the biggest jobs I had was putting together the B-29."
In the late 1980s, Sergeant Ferrara worked in his unit's support flight. He typed tool and inventory listings on a typewriter since computers weren't common in the workplace at that time. In the early 1990s, Sergeant Ferrara transferred the same information along with unit letterhead and other administrative documents to computer.
In August 1990, Sergeant Ferrara was sent to support Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While at war, he saw his daughter, Hannah's, first steps via video.
Through all of his military experiences, Sergeant Ferrara has remained proud to be called a 653rd CLSS White Knight.
"I've enjoyed my career," he said. "I've enjoyed the people I've been with."
And people from his unit, past and present, mirror that sentiment.
Senior Master Sgt. David Lee, 653rd CLSS' structures section chief, said Sergeant Ferrara is a true Air Force-dedicated Airman.
"He's a dedicated individual that performed his job and did an outstanding job for the unit," he said. "He made a lot of impact on the unit."
Lester Jackson, senior support engineer for Intergraphic Corp. and a former member of the 653rd CLSS from 1985 - 2006, said he hasn't known many people as special as his friend.
"I've known John for 20-plus years," he said. "I always told John that the good Lord was just looking out for him. He knew that John was a different person. He wanted him to set the record to be (one of) the first to spend 20-plus years at one squadron."