Chief spends one-third of career at Osan, reflects on experiences

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
From 1986 to 1990, 1994 to 1996, 1998 to 2000, and from 2011 to 2014 - all arbitrary points in time, unless one happens to be a certain chief master sergeant.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Vogel, 51st Medical Group superintendent, will soon retire from the Air Force after 30 years of service, 10 of which he spent at Osan.

Vogel's first tour in Korea came just two years after his initial enlistment, when he worked as a 51st Dental Squadron dental technician. Vogel said those memories are some of his fondest.

"The time I spent here early on in my career was probably my favorite, because everything was so new to me," Vogel said.

Vogel went on to fill other positions - the 51st DS superintendent and his current position as the superintendent for the 51st MDG - all on a voluntary basis.

"I utilized the assignment very well as a youngster," Vogel said. "I've had great follow-on assignments from here. One to Hawaii, one to Clark (Air Base) in the Philippines, and one to Italy."

Vogel's time at Clark AB was anything but ordinary. The chief recalled his part in Operation Fiery Vigil, a humanitarian relief effort as a result of Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in 1991.

"The base was destroyed," Vogel said. "Most people were evacuated, but I was among those who stayed behind to pack up household goods and salvage medical and dental equipment. We worked hard, but it was one of the best times of my life."

As one would expect from a 10-year veteran of service on the peninsula, Vogel has had his fair share of experiences at Osan, including time spent in the ROK under each of the three most recent Democratic People's Republic of Korea's leaders' reigns.

Looking back, Vogel noted that he's seen more changes on base than things that have stayed the same, including the culture.

"It's very different than it used to be, which is good," Vogel said. "Everything's a lot safer."

The chief, an avid fisherman, said one of his favorite spots is at Gosam Reservoir in Anseong, Gyeonggi-do, where he whiled away the hours reeling in bass and trout. He said one piece of advice he'd like to pass on to others stationed in the ROK is to take advantage of their surroundings.

"There's always something to do," Vogel said. "Just get on a train and go. Once you immerse yourself in the culture you'll start learning the language a lot quicker."

Another of Vogel's hobbies is traveling, something he and his wife of 12 years plan to do after they move to the Philippines to be near her family.

"This is the first time my wife has been at an overseas assignment with me," Vogel explained. "After I retire, we plan on traveling the world."

As someone who earned five different promotions over the span of his four assignments to Korea, Vogel said he believes Airmen who serve here will benefit from the unique tempo of their remote tour.

"Each year there's a huge turnover and an opportunity to meet a lot of new folks," Vogel said. "It's a fast-paced environment, and that strengthens your work ethic."