The diverse service of our Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Lona Lozinski
  • 167th Airlift Wing

Armed Forces Day is Saturday, May 21 and across the country, we celebrate the service of our men and women. Established in 1949 to replace separate recognition days for the Army, Navy and Air Force, Armed Forces Day is our chance to offer gratitude to all service members.

At the 167th, this is a chance to recognize the diverse backgrounds of our airmen and highlight their prior service. Many of our members have previously served in the Army, Navy and Marines. Combined, these seven Airmen have traveled to over 80 countries and nearly every state in the Union, activated for over 20 deployments and most have seen combat. Coming from these diverse backgrounds, these airmen offer a unique look into who our airmen are, the skills they bring from other branches of service, and how that service has influenced them in their current positions at the 167th.

Master Sgt. Sylvester Payne is the 167th Security Forces Superintendent and served three years in the Navy when he graduated from high school. Payne was a “Green Shirt,” which meant he was part of a crew that assisted in launching and recovering aircraft off the carrier. Payne recalled working 18 hour days and months aboard a ship, moving from port to port. In his short three years in the Navy, Payne was in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Adriatic Sea, the Persian Gulf and twice passed through the Suez Canal, had two six month deployments and served on two ships.

“When I was a Green Shirt I saw planes go in the water, planes come in on fire, people blown down the deck. You had to keep your head on a swivel. But it was exhilarating. I enjoyed the work,” Payne said. “But I knew that it was not something I wanted to do for twenty years.”

Being native to Berkeley Spring, West Va., it made sense that after leaving the Navy in 1998, Payne joined the 167th. He held positions in both the Maintenance Group and the Security Forces Squadron, served in multiple positions to include an extended period of time as a Raven, which is a specialized segment of the Security Forces population, and has traveled to approximately 50 countries in his 27 years of combined service. When asked what skills he brought with him to the Wing, Payne stated that two skills, “team unity” and “situational awareness,” have served him well in his time at the 167th.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Frye is a firefighter at the 167th and served for six years in the Army before joining the 167th in 2008. He served in the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Calvary Division and the 2nd Infantry Division in such places as Korea and Haiti. Frye’s jobs included Airborne and Air Assault, Stinger missile crew team chief and squad leader during both Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Frye left the Army in 1998 due to rank stagnation and worked in the civilian sector before joining the 167th. He has served with the 167th for 14 years and works full time for the Wing and part time for Hagerstown Regional Airport as a firefighter. Since coming to the Wing, Frye has married, had three children and is now four classes away from earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management.

When asked what traits and skills he brought with him from the Army, Frye said he learned to “always get up and move forward.”

“You train to the desired standard, not your perceived abilities,” Frye said. “The day is only as hard as you allow it be and you can weather so much more than you think.”

Tech. Sgt. Thomas Glennon served in the Navy for five years as a Machinist Welder and had three West Pacific cruises, one Arctic cruise and two tours into the Persian Gulf during the Iraq War. Glennon served on the USS Vincennes, which took hostile fire during an exchange between the USS Elmer Montgomery and Iranian gun boats. The incident resulted in mass casualties and took a severe toll on Glennon’s perspective of his role in the Navy. Glennon separated at the end of his enlistment in 1990.

“The Navy is a fast paced, you’ll-sleep-when-you’re-dead organization,” said Glennon. “I had a good work ethic before the Navy but they honed it, or abused it.”

Glennon joined the 167th in 1996 and continues to faithfully serve after nearly 30 years of combined service. He first worked as a Drill Status Guardsman and is now a full-time Technician.

Senior Master Sgt. Brad Gloyd served four years in the Army and enlisted through the Delayed Entry Program while still a Junior in high school in Berkeley Springs. Gloyd worked as Multi-Systems Channel Analyst and was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Ca., Fort Gordon, Ga., and Fort Hood, Tx. He served in Bosnia for three months as part of Operation Joint Forge.

Gloyd said that his time in the Army was marred with poor leadership that were not looking out for him as a young soldier. He separated from service and came home to West Virginia. Gloyd joined the Wing in 2003 and immediately found the leadership he was looking for. Gloyd says that as a young airman he had run into some personal issues and his leadership not only supported him but fought for him to stay in the 167th.

“I thought for sure, the problems that I was having, that this was it, they were going to make me get out…and I had just gotten here,” said Gloyd.

But instead, Gloyd went on to have a successful career in the Communications Flight and is currently the Cyber Defense Operations Senior Enlisted Leader.

Master Sgt. James Keller enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served in multiple roles to include an Intelligence Analyst and Signals Intercept Operator. He was attached to multiple units to include a Special Forces unit for four years. Because of the type of units he was attached to, Keller saw combat early and often, with his first combat operation at the age of 19. Keller’s final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2002. During that mission, Keller was driving in a convoy that was ambushed. His passenger, Sgt. Gene Vance, was killed by a sniper during the attack.

It took several weeks to get home after the ambush and part of that trip was made on a C-17. Keller said the care from the aircrew that he and the three surviving members of the ambush received, sparked his interest in the Air Force. Keller separated from the Army in 2003 and enlisted in the 167th Airlift Wing in 2006.

 Keller is currently the 167th Security Forces Squadron First Sergeant and has a combined 31 years of service. He says what he learned the most from his prior service in the Army is keeping a level head is the most important thing.

“I always keep in mind that the emergencies we may experience while working on the aircraft or other things that may happen here, it’s okay,” said Keller. “For the most part, we aren’t talking about life and death and so whatever it is, we will fix it.”

Senior Master Sgt. Josh Michael started his military career as a Marine in 1998 and worked as a machine gunner and as part of a Riverine Assault Craft (RAC) team. His four years of active duty amassed two six month deployments, travel to three continents, seven countries and the Suez Canal.

Michael said by 2002, though life in the Marines was no longer enjoyable, he still wanted to serve, only this time, closer to home. Michael, like Payne, is from Berkeley Springs, and found his way to the 167th, just three months after separating from the Marines in June 2002. During his 20 years here, he has been assigned to five Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) in two different squadrons, all leading to his current position as the Civil Engineering Squadron Senior Enlisted Leader.

“Being a Marine…it’s the proudest I have ever been of anything in my life,” said Michael. “It lives deep in your core and that bearing, the discipline, stay with me.”

Senior Airman Benedict De Leon served seven years in the Army Reserves attached to the 721st Signal Company in Guam where he maintained computer systems and managed highly sensitive military information. De Leon was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to Guam when he was 26. Guam is a US territory and De Leon said he felt a need to provide service to the US in gratitude for living there.

As an immigrant and as a foreigner, I wanted to contribute and I wanted to give back,” said De Leon. “I wanted to be part of the one percent and I have a lot of pride in that.”

De Leon separated from the Army Reserves in 2018 but parlayed the skills he learned there to his current civilian job as an FBI Assistant Watch Officer in Washington D.C. De Leon wanted to continue his military service and joined the 167th Communications Flight in November of 2019. De Leon currently works in the Client Systems shop.

The stories of these airmen are brought to you by the 167th Airlift Wing Heritage and Diversity Council. The Council is devoted to sharing the history, culture and diversity of the Airmen of the 167th AW in order to promote a community of acceptance and inclusion at the Wing. The HDC meets every UTA Sunday and is open to all members of the 167th.