All good things come to an end: 9th Air Force command chief set to retire Oct. 4

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shane Dunaway
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
After 30 years of dedicated service to what is widely considered to be the world's most dominant air force, Chief Master Sgt. John Foran, 9th Air Force command chief, will officially retire Oct. 4.

"It's been very rewarding to have an opportunity to serve for so many wonderful Airmen in the theater where we are conducting the biggest war since I've been in the military," Chief Foran said. "The military has been extremely good to me. It has paid for my education and given me leadership opportunities."

Chief Foran made the final visit of his Air Force career to Seymour Johnson Sept. 11-13. It was only fitting for this to be one of his last stops considering this was where his operational Air Force career began as a load crew team member for the 4th Aircraft Generation Squadron.

"I had many opportunities here," Chief Foran said. "The fondest memories I have are memories of our community relations. I was extremely lucky as a young Airman. We didn't make a lot of money back then, so a lot of us worked off-base. I worked a second job, but I never let my first job, my duty to the Air Force, fall down. I worked extremely hard at both jobs, plus I attended school and found time to get my pilot's license."

It wasn't just the support of a second job amongst the community which helped guide Chief Foran down the right paths in his career. He credits involvement from leadership with aiding him in his development.

"The leaders that helped me so many times and gave me opportunities to succeed, they didn't do it for me, but they said, 'Hey John, we want you to go step up and work in weapons standardization,'" Chief Foran said. "I said, 'You know, I really want to stay out on the flightline.' Then they said, 'No, we want you to step up and become an instructor. We want to you to step up and become a load crew chief.' I remember telling Sgt. John J. Green, who gave me the opportunity to be an instructor, 'Sergeant Green, I can't speak in front of two people. I would come apart at the seams.' He said, 'John, you'll do fine. You'll learn how to do it.'"

Sergeant Green would go on to be one of Chief Foran's biggest mentors.

"He was infinitely wise beyond my wildest imagination, and not only did that set me on a path to finish my college education, it also set me on a path of success for my entire life," Chief Foran said. "I think the NCOs and officers I worked under did a great job in setting me up for success, but ultimately, it's up to you to be successful."

When Chief Foran joined the Air Force in March 1977, he had his sights set on traveling. Almost thirty years later, it could be said Chief Foran got more traveling than he could have bargained for in his career.

"I came in to travel, like a lot of people do, and the Air Force gave me opportunities to travel," Chief Foran said. "I have seen lands, people and things I think a lot of people in America will never ever see. For a country boy from Georgia who grew up out on a farm to get an opportunity to do the things that I've done has been phenomenal."

Having faced 29 deployments over the past two years didn't faze Chief Foran, because he says he enjoys being in the thick of things.

"I think analog leadership is most important," Chief Foran said. "I could've led from Shaw Air Force Base, never deployed and led through the computer, but I think that is very poor leadership. You need to get out there, put the boots on the ground, see what's going on face to face with the Airmen that you're working for and make sure you know firsthand what the issues are and what you need to attack first, second and so on, because if you don't, you really don't know."

Throughout his career, Chief Foran has seen many changes.

"The biggest change I've seen over my career isn't the size reduction of the military," Chief Foran said. "I think our Air Force today is more capable and has better effects than it's ever had in its entire history. We have the ability today to do whatever we ask or whatever is asked of us by our nation. We have the technology, the equipment and the people who are trained that can do that better than ever. The biggest change is the opportunities for NCOs to step and lead. Never since I've been in have NCOs been tasked with the responsibility that I see today, going from our chief master sergeants, senior master sergeants, master sergeants, even our technical and staff sergeants."

Chief Foran was able to cite a recent example illustrating this change in the way the Air Force operates.

"I just had an opportunity to see a young man and a young lady at Bucca Detention Facility, and they were leading a 14-person squad guarding more than 1,000 detainees," Chief Foran said. "They were only technical sergeants, but they were tasked to lead these people and guard some of the most dangerous people in the world, and they were doing it with total professionalism. In the past, that never would have happened. There would have always been an officer or higher level NCO tasked to be responsible for that particular operation."

Whether it was as a quality assurance inspector at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, or as a weapons flight ohief at Davis-Montham AFB, Ariz., Chief Foran has no doubt left his mark and his legacy on today's Air Force.

"Not only is Chief Foran the Numbered Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant where he oversees our efforts as a force provider, he is also a major employer of our Airmen as the USCENTAF senior enlisted advisor and travels far and wide," said Chief Master Sgt. Layton Clark, 4th Fighter Wing command chief. He has always been complimentary of the level of professionalism and commitment that our Airmen display whether they are in-garrison or deployed. He is an Airman, with a capital A, an outstanding advocate for Airmen and airpower in the CENTCOM theater of operations."

As fantastic as Chief Foran's career has been, he's looking forward to enjoying life after the Air Force.

"My father and I rebuilt an airplane before I came into the Air Force," Chief Foran said. "He got his pilot's license, and I actually flew with him and really enjoyed flying. I still love to fly today. I plan on paying my father back because he flew me around for years, and unfortunately, he has a medical condition and cannot fly anymore. I plan to fly my father around to pay him back for all the time he flew me around as a young person."

Chief Foran doesn't just take to the sky. He plans to spend some time in the water as well.

"I love to scuba dive," Chief Foran said. "I think that's the greatest sport. Some people say it's dangerous, but I believe it's not if you're properly trained, you have good equipment and you pay attention to what you're doing. I plan on traveling, maybe to Mexico or over to the Bahamas to do some diving, or maybe to the Red Sea where I first started scuba diving when I was in Egypt. The Red Sea is probably the second most beautiful place to dive in the world, but people say the Great Barrier Reef is the best."

Wherever Chief Foran's travels take him, he'll always have the love and support for his family who stuck with him through many moves and deployments.

"My family's been wonderful," Chief Foran said. "I met my bride before I joined the Air Force. We're both from the same area in Georgia. She's been very supportive throughout my career. I don't think you can do this job without the support of your family. My son, who was born in Germany shortly after we left Seymour, has been wonderful as well. It's going to be a wonderful time when I get out, go back and build that home that will be home for us for a long, long time."