Newly promoted senior NCO proves he's a STEP above

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Samuel King Jr.
  • 53 Wing Public Affairs
A member of the 53d Wing was promoted to master sergeant via the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program, Monday at Eglin Air Force Base.

(Then) Tech. Sgt. Andrew Leonhard, 53d Wing Public Affairs NCOIC, had finished briefing about PA activities at the weekly staff meeting, when Col. Mick Guthals, 53d Wing vice commander, asked him if that was all he had to report.

"When he started questioning why we had so much stuff in our brief and why I was giving it, I began to get a little nervous," said the Iowa native. "My mind started to swirl into action about what I might have missed or did wrong."

The room got very quiet and uncomfortable as the colonel pretended to get angry saying that this "was not" tech sergeant work. Sergeant Leonhard stood frozen in front of him with all the wing's group and squadron commanders looking on. Finally, he let him off the hook saying it wasn't tech sergeant work, it was master sergeant work.

"I can't repeat the exact words that went through my mind when he pulled out the master sergeant stripes, but I could finally feel my heart beating normal again," said the new master sergeant. "The toughest part after that was sitting through the rest of the staff meeting, trying to figure what had just happened and wanting to call my wife to tell her the news."

After a trying five months of running the wing's PA show virtually by himself, the 16-year veteran now has the rank to match the job.

"Just like the vice commander mentioned, he's been working at a senior NCO level for a while now," said Capt. Carrie Kessler, 53d PA chief. "With the amount of work he has and the genuine compassion he puts into everything he does - this promotion was well deserved."

Now that he can put off promotion testing for a while, the new senior NCO is concentrating on college classes.

"I wish I could get promoted through college algebra," he said.