After serving in the Air Force more than 28 years, Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Brinkley, 11th Wing/ Joint Base Andrews command chief, is slated to retire in a ceremony here on June 8. While serving as Andrews’ command chief, Brinkley was responsible for the quality of life and installation support of more than 4,500 enlisted personnel assigned here.
After receiving parental permission to join the Air Force in 1984 at 17 years old, Brinkley was stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines as his first active-duty assignment. While there, his primary job was working standardization evaluations.
“When I first entered the Air Force, I was in the Air Force but the Air Force wasn’t in me,” said Brinkley. “When I would take the uniform off, I would do things that didn’t align with our Air Force Core Values. It took a while for the light to come on.”
On terminal leave after his first enlistment, Brinkley was set to separate from active duty and establish himself as a musical entrepreneur in California. However, a lack of timely interest from local music promoters pushed Brinkley to reconsider his decision.
“Back then, I didn’t really understand how technical music was and when the phone wasn’t ringing from producers like I thought it would, I said ‘I really need to re think my strategy,’” said Brinkley.
Then, after receiving a call from the Air Force that he had been promoted and had a new assignment, Brinkley chose to re-enlist. Fourteen assignments and more than 20 years as an active duty Airman later, Brinkley looks at his decision to stay in the Air Force as a good one, with some of the proudest moments in his career stemming from not himself, but the Airmen he has been privileged to come in contact with. His most-proud example of which came to him as a young master sergeant stationed at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Ga. in 1994.
“When I got there, I had been in ten years; I was young,” said Brinkley. “I took over a section where the master sergeant before me had committed suicide and left his spot to be filled by a senior airman. When I walked into that section, needless to say, it was very difficult.”
Determined to make the most of his new assignment and Airmen, Brinkley pushed those he supervised to find purpose in their daily work and in their whole Air Force career.
“I told them that, ‘until they can do my job, I’m not going to take a day off,’” said Brinkley. “From then, I started taking time to understand my people. I visited them at their homes to check in on them and took time to understand their families and who they were as people. Eventually, it became their focus to get me a day off. The crowning moment from that experience was then when one of my Airmen was named Airman of the Year for Robins AFB in 1994. I’m proud to say that the proudest moment in my career had nothing to do with me; it was about one of my Airmen who recognized his own potential.”
Through it all, Brinkley feels fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to join the Air Force and to have experienced what life has given to him due to that decision. In lieu of his retirement, Brinkley offers advice to any Airman juggling decisions about their Air Force career, hoping that their light will come on as his did.
“This lifestyle is not for everyone,” said Brinkley. “There’s a lot of sacrifice that comes along with being an Airman. Less that 2/10 of 1 percent of Americans are in the Air Force, yet our mission continues to grow. If I had to say anything, I would want to thank those that wear this uniform and those that support the wearers of this uniform. Having worn it for almost 29 years, there is no better feeling than being with people who put others before themselves. Remember, life is not a dry run. If you can handle this lifestyle of sacrifice and deployment there’s a lot of good that comes with it too. It’s been a great career and life choice, and on occasion, I’ve still been known to rap.”