OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea – As hopes for peace on the Korean Peninsula grow, one chief master sergeant and key member of the Air Force intelligence community says good-bye knowing the future is in good hands.
Chief Master Sgt. Scott Lumpkin, Seventh Air Force command chief, served for 30 years, a feat only a select few achieve.
During a career that spanned 17 locations, including Osan for 12 years, he earned many accolades and awards along the way.
Most recently, Lumpkin received the Republic of Korea – U.S. Alliance Award from the ROK Ministry of National Defense during a ceremony in Seoul, ROK, Nov. 14. He is the first enlisted U.S. Air Force member to receive the award given for his dedication to strengthening the ROK and U.S. alliance.
The award culminates a career of selflessness, and the one thing that remained constant along the way was his wife, Meg, and their three children.
“I couldn’t have done this journey without my family,” said Lumpkin, who grew up in Vista, California. “I can’t thank them enough.”
In 1988, before he enlisted, Lumpkin was a young-family man working at a commodity firm where he sold clients’ precious metals.
He heard stories from veterans, including his father and brother who served, and his father-in-law, a retired Air Force master sergeant, and wanted to have stories of his own.
“I would ask myself, ‘what stories am I going to have to tell after this?’” said Lumpkin about working at the firm.
At 25, he made the life-changing career choice to join the Air Force as a Korean linguist.
Lumpkin said he did not know much about the Korean language or culture, but to him it was an adventurous opportunity. The training was extremely difficult, but he overcame the obstacles and learned what he needed in order to accomplish the mission.
After nearly two years of training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and the Korean Cryptologic Course at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, Lumpkin was ready to master his career-field.
“To me, my career as a junior Airman and noncommissioned officer was about being a technician and being good at my job,” said Lumpkin. “If you’re no good at your job nothing really matters.
“I was still a leader as an NCO, but the main job was my technical credibility and people saying, ‘this guy is great at what he does,’” he added. “That is what I built my foundation on, and I still believe that is what people should be focused on.”
When he enlisted, the Air Force had twice as many people as it does now, and Airmen had more time to interact and build comradery. Since joining, Lumpkin said the service’s mission has become more complex.
“Back then I had more time to master my skills, but today’s Airmen are the finest Airmen I have seen in 30 years,” said Lumpkin.
While he transitioned from becoming a master technician to a senior NCO, he became more focused on the people. He took responsibility for training them, equipping them, resourcing them, and making sure they were safe and resilient.
“As a senior NCO, I was pushed to get out of my comfort zone and that helped me to be a more effective chief and has molded me into the leader I am now,” Lumpkin added.
A leader more than 100 people gathered to honor during his retirement ceremony Nov. 16.
“It was clear from day one that Scott was built for this job,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, U.S. Central Command deputy commander, former Seventh Air Force commander, and presiding officer of Lumpkin’s retirement ceremony. “His performance was defined by discipline, initiative, intellect and maturity.”
As Lumpkin bid farewell to fellow linguists, leaders and Airmen, he reminded them of the important role they play in defending the freedom of the U.S. and its allies.
“Remember to continue to work hard and to be good at your jobs, because now I am depending on you,” said Lumpkin. “The USAF is the most efficient and deadly fighting force assembled in the history of mankind and it’s staffed by the most capable Airmen that have ever lived.
“As I enjoy my free time, I will look at the Rocky Mountains with a beverage in one hand and a cigar in the other, knowing that our nation is in great hands.”