Grissom bids farewell to CMSgt Michael Bowden

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Josh Weaver
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

What do you want to do when you grow up? The majority of us, even those of us in our 30’s and 40’s still can’t answer that question. In 1986, 19 year old Michael Bowden didn’t know the answer to that question either. The way he saw it he had two choices, join the military or go to college.

With no money to go to college he chose the military.

He planned on doing a quick four years at the end of which he would use his GI Bill to go to college, but we all know things don’t always go according to plan. So now, 36 years later, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Bowden, the 434th Mission Support Group’s senior enlisted leader is ready to finish his quick four years. 

“I really had only planned on doing those four years, but over the course of that time something changed for me,” said Bowden. “I started to meet all sorts of incredible people and develop relationships with them. I really started to like the Air Force life.”

After a deployment during Desert Shield Desert Storm, Bowden decided to separate from active duty and join the Air Force Reserve which brought him to Grissom. He still didn’t know how long he wanted to continue to serve.

“I remember when I hit my 10 year mark I thought, ‘well I’m half way there might as well push it out to 20 years’,” he said. “I just kept re-enlisting and re-enlisting, and the next thing you know, I’m over 30 years.”

As with most at the end of their career, Bowden acknowledges that time flew and was over in the blink of an eye. One minute he was a 19 year old kid, and the next he’s finishing up 36 years of service, but raising your right hand and swearing an oath multiple times has been more rewarding than he ever could have imagined.

“I owe everything I have today to the Air Force,” he said. “I don’t mean just in a material perspective either. The relationships, my education and a lifetime of memories. I owe it 100% to my decision to join the Air Force.”

So how do you repay the organization that allowed you to become the person you are today?

For Bowden the answer was simple, treat everyone equal, do your absolute best and embrace the success of those around you.

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower.” A simple quote surrounded by a ‘to-do’ list, written on a dry erase board hanging on the wall Bowden’s office.

If you ever walked in his office, you’d probably never see that white board, since your attention is immediately drawn to all of the awards and gifts he’s acquired over his career. But if you ever sat down in his office to chat, over your left shoulder that white board would be hanging, clearly visible to him as he talks to you.

The white board hanging over your shoulder is a constant reminder to Bowden of who he is and the values he hold. Not only as a chief master sergeant but also as a person.

“My career has been so incredibly rewarding, not because of the things I achieved but because of things the people around me have achieved,” said Bowden. “You don’t get to be a chief by always looking out for number one, you get here by looking out for the people around you, and helping them advance their career.”

That attitude and those values shaped his career as well at the culture at Grissom.

“There are nine folks that I’ve either worked with, they’ve worked for me or that I’ve mentored who are currently chiefs or retired chiefs,” he said. “If you want to know what I’m most proud of, that’s it.”

Not bad for a 19 year old who didn’t know what he wanted to do when he grew up.