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Airman crosses four decade threshold while deployed to the 332nd AEW

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

Looking back 40 years is something many of us can do, however it’s a far more select group that can look back over a 40-year career.

Chief Master Sgt. David R. Purtee enlisted in the U.S. Air Force April 25, 1981, at 17 years-of-age, from his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio.

When asked if he envisioned his career stretching to the 40-year mark, he said, “Well, the short answer is ‘no’,” with a smile on his face.

But after spending four years with the Air Force, stationed in New York and England he had the opportunity to transition to the Ohio Air National Guard as a KC-135 crew chief.

“That airframe has been around longer than I have,” he said. “Its service life is scheduled to go for another 33 years at this point.”

Like that airframe he’s seen a lot: seven separate presidential administrations, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Y2K, the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the list goes on.

“The hardest days are when you have to pack up and leave your family, no matter how short or how long the trip,” said Purtee.

He says that seated in an undisclosed location in the Middle East right in the middle of a deployment to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. It’s not the first time he’s deployed including stints in the Gulf War for Operations Desert Shield/Storm and subsequent Operations Northern/Southern Watch, Joint Endeavour, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Freedom Sentinel and Inherent Resolve.

This deployment is a little different than the others, he said, “My wife and I look at this deployment as capping off my career.” When he returns to the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus, Ohio they plan to enjoy a retirement that lies just over the horizon.  

“I could think of no better way to complete a career than coming over here and doing what I have been trained to do,” he added. 

Looking back over his years he says it’s taught him a lot, and he still learns new things every day; he encourages new Airmen to embrace this and learn all they can on how the Air Force works.

“My success has only been through the interactions and associations with all the people I have ever been in contact with across my career,” he says. “Even if you’re only in for one enlistment, the Air Force can really teach you skills even beyond your AFSC for future employment opportunities whether that’s in the military or not.”