CMSGT Marion retires after 33 years of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Courtney Dotson-Essett
  • 434 Air Refueling Wing

It’s not really goodbye. It’s not even a change of scenery. It’s just moving forward. Chief Master Sgt. Wes Marion, 434 th Air Refueling Wing Command Chief, is doing just that after he retired Nov. 7 after 33 years of serving in the Air Force.

Marion has been a mainstay at Grissom since the early 90’s, offering advice, mentorship and good-natured humor to Airmen around the Wing.

The White County, Indiana native enlisted in the Air Force in 1987 and worked as an inventory management specialist at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, Florida.

”I always liked the military as a kid,” said Marion. “My grandfather was an an MP in the military.”

His grandfather was stationed in Hawaii in 1941. While he wasn’t at a base that was directly hit in the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Marion knew the event left an impression on his grandfather.

“I was always intrigued by the military, but I was very intrigued by what my grandfather knew,” he said.

A fateful moment came for Marion, when on a whim, he went to a picnic with his friend who had recently enlisted in the Air Force. There, he met a recruiter.

After spending some time chatting with the recruiter, he was ready to begin a career of his own.

“I wasn’t sure when I joined if it would be four years or more,” Marion said. “As I got closer to the end of my enlistment, I just decided this wasn’t really for me and I wanted to go to college and get an education.”

But he also wasn’t quite finished with the Air Force.

“I wanted to go out and prove that I could do it on my own, but I wanted to continue serving,” he said.

So he came back home to Indiana, and became a reservist at Grissom.

And Marion managed to a do a lot on his own and with the Air Force.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a law degree from Indiana University. Add to those, Air Force achievement, commendation meritorious service and good conduct medals, along with numerous other awards.

He became Grissom’s command chief in 2016. He’s been a familiar and popular face in the various units, shops and buildings around base, known for his affability and humor.

“Chief Marion thank you so much for being the best command chief I could have ever asked for,” said Col. Larry Shaw, 434th ARW commander, during Marion’s retirement ceremony. I’ve admired the way you’ve mentored and cared for our Airmen. You truly have a servant’s heart. You fought hard for all of our Airmen no matter the rank.”

Shaw added that Marion’s support was indeed far-reaching to all Airmen, including those who are higher ranking, like himself.

“For the last three years, you and I were lock and step with all of our decisions and we were side-by- side in our leadership philosophies. You made me a better person,” Shaw said.

After 33 years, how does one pinpoint a favorite? It’s easy for Marion. The Airmen.

“It’s everything about the Airmen,” said Marion on being command chief. “Getting to recognize the Airmen, getting to be a part of the wing awards process, being able to meet Airmen and mentor them-it’s all of it.”

“One of the really cool things was being there with Col. Shaw and other leadership to accept the Raincross award on behalf of our Airmen, because it was the Airmen who did all that work that earned the wing that award,” he added.

And Chief Marion still has some advice and mentorship for those who are sticking around.

“Don’t give up. Don’t stagnate. If someone tells you no, there’s always exception to policy,” he said. “Look for other policies, be persistent. If one avenue is closed, look for something else you can do.”

He lists his own career for example, having had three different careers within the Air Force.

He added, “Always be ready. I think we need to talk about readiness in the sense of development. In promotion readiness, in progression readiness. Don’t just do the minimum. If you can, do extra. Keep trying to learn and progress.”

And now that there are no more commander calls to attend and the retirement ceremony is over, what’s next?

Marion’s not finished with Grissom just yet. He’ll still be on base working as a civilian in human resources.

“I would still love to mentor if that’s a possibility, without being imposing,” said Marion. “As far as weekends, I’ll probably do a lot of projects around the house and some things I haven’t been able to do.”