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N.C. Air National Guard Command Chief humbly says goodbye

U.S. Air Force State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, passes the unique noncommissioned officers sword to Brig. Gen. Roger E. Williams Jr., North Carolina Assistant Adjutant General for Air, signifying Pickett’s relinquish of command during a Change of Authority ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas Intl. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. The passing of the sword signifies relinquishing of duties and shows gratitude for the opportunity to care for the North Carolina Air National Guard’s airmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, passes the unique noncommissioned officers sword to Brig. Gen. Roger E. Williams Jr., North Carolina Assistant Adjutant General for Air, signifying Pickett’s relinquish of command during a Change of Authority ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas Intl. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. The passing of the sword signifies relinquishing of duties and shows gratitude for the opportunity to care for the North Carolina Air National Guard’s airmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Roger E. Williams Jr. Assistant Adjutant General for Air, presents outgoing State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal during a Change of Authority ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, Charlotte Douglas Int'l. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Roger E. Williams Jr. Assistant Adjutant General for Air, presents outgoing State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal during a Change of Authority ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, Charlotte Douglas Int'l. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, addresses airmen as he relinquishes authority of the NCANG during a ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, Charlotte Douglas Int'l. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

U.S. Air Force State Command Chief Master Sgt. Bruce G. Pickett, North Carolina Air National Guard, addresses airmen as he relinquishes authority of the NCANG during a ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard base, Charlotte Douglas Int'l. Airport, Feb. 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Rich Kerner, 145th Public Affairs/Released)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After 30 years of service and achieving the highest enlisted position in the North Carolina Air National Guard, Command Chief Master Sergeant Bruce Pickett passes the sword to a new leader during a Change of Authority ceremony held at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas Int'l Airport, Feb. 8, 2015.

"I'm getting close to 60 and I look forward to having more time for other things," said Pickett when asked about his time in the Air Force.

Pickett is not only retiring from the Air Force, but last year he also retired from the Charlotte Fire Department.

In 2014 Pickett found time to get a commercial driver's license and in a short period started his own trucking company. He's driven over 52 thousand miles and traveled to all but seven states.

As well as running a new business, he's looking forward to spending more time with this wife and best friend, Jan.

"He's the love of my life, he's my hero, and I'm incredibly proud of what he's accomplished," Jan Pickett said.

They met in the North Carolina Air National Guard and wed 20 years ago. Ironically, they were married in the operations building. She's his biggest supporter.

"He's so good at what he does. I supported and encouraged him to do everything he could to be successful like becoming the first sergeant and chief," Jan said.

"I've never had to worry while deployed whether it was the house or the checking account. Everything was taken care of. I would not have been nearly as successful in my career had it not been for my wife," said Pickett.

His final assignment before assuming the State Command Chief position was with the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron where he served for over 20 years. He was most proud of a deployment to Iraq in 2003. 

"We picked up some guys after they'd been in a helicopter crash. I remember thinking these 19 and 20 year olds should be in college, having a good time, enjoying life, and not being transported in a C-130 to a medical facility because they were blown up," said Pickett.

"It was hard to recognize them as human beings because they were swollen and beat up. Thinking back, I get emotional about the aeromedical evacuation of military members early in the war," said Pickett.

Former coworker and now 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Charles 'Chuck' Scronce, was with Pickett when they joined the unit.
"I met Bruce the day he joined. We showed up on the same day in line at the clinic. We formed an instant bond because we're cut from the same mold," said Scronce.

"We're lifelong friends. We trained together, we got qualified together and I've always thought he's a solid and one of the most genuine guys I know," said Scronce.

Chief Master Sgt. Pickett also had a positive impact on the airmen he supervised and led. Master Sgt. Christopher Choate, 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, was one of those airmen.

"He was a Senior Master Sgt. and then a Chief Master Sgt. when we worked together. I learned so much from him. There's limited time during drill weekends, and he always balanced leadership duties, the job tasks, and making the right decisions," said Choate. 

Pickett offered some advice to newly appointed Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Stanley, as he takes the helm as the North Carolina Command Chief.

"My advice to him is to be visible across the board with the Army and with the Air Force. It's not about us, it's the about the people we work with and work for: families, airmen, and the community," said Pickett.

The change of authority ceremony marks a new chapter for the North Carolina Air National Guard.

"It's a renewing of life, and it's a chance for things to move forward. If old guys like me always stayed in our positions there'd be no room for new ideas, adapting to the new generation, and positive changes to the organization," said Pickett.

"I will miss the people and the comradery, but it's time," said Pickett.