145th Airlift Wing Annual Retiree Breakfast Published Nov. 3, 2013 By Senior Airman Laura Montgomery 145th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs Office CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- They can take our croissants but they'll never take our camaraderie...The 145th Airlift Wing hosted the annual Retiree breakfast in spite of the recent and brief government shutdown, allowing North Carolina Air National Guard members and retired armed forces members plus families to enjoy a warm breakfast and fellowship in a C-130 Hercules aircraft hangar at the NCANG base, Charlotte-Douglas Intl. Airport, October 25, 2013. It all started in 1995 when retired Master Sgt. Jake Taylor, 145th Aerial Port Squadron approached Chief Master Sgt. Terry Henderson, 145th AW Personnel Manager, and asked what could be done to keep the retired armed forces members from the 145th AW updated on base happenings. Like a pebble being cast into water, the idea that spiraled from a brief conversation has now become known as the Annual Retiree Breakfast. Starting September 19, 1995 involving some 150 members at that time, has now grown to averaging over 400 participants. Retired Tech. Sgt. John Ward, 145th Communications Squadron said, "I like that it (Annual Retiree Breakfast) gives people the chance to reconnect and spend time face to face. The oldest guest in attendance retired Chief Master Sgt. William (Bill) Fish, now 92, a former member of the 145th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron said, "I've been here every year since it started." Fish was one of five Senior Master Sgt.'s inducted into the Rank of Chief Master Sgt. and remained so for 19 years and 9 months before retiring in Dec. of 1980 after joining what is now the 145th Airlift Wing in 1948, a year after the Air Force was established. Fish continues to support the 145th AW; every Thursday he stops by the historian's office at the Charlotte NCANG base and helps Lieutenant Col. David Thrams, 145th Maintenance Group Executive Officer by identifying subjects and locations in various historical photographs for base history purposes. Sisters Carol Grate and Bettina Grate-Smith joined in the festivities of the retiree breakfast as well. Carol and Bettina retired from the 145th AW in 1993 and stated they enjoyed their service in a unique way. Both sisters joined the Air Force the same day, shared their first plane flight out to basic training in San Antonio, Texas, trained as telecommunication operation specialists and returned to Charlotte, NC, serving in the 145th Communications Flight for 16 years. Both sisters agreed that the friendships they gained and the traveling were the highlights of their military careers. A lot of thought and preparation goes into planning the Annual Retiree Breakfast, from maintaining a contact list of current retirees and sending invitations, to scheduling, preparing meals and establishing a vendor's area for retirees to gather useful information. All the hard-work goes to great use as the successful gathering brings a multitude of people together and morale including a sense of unity, to the base.