A Veterans Day Salute: Retired Tech Sgt. Terry Kratz

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Trenton Jancze
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Throughout the years, Altus Air Force Base has been the home to thousands of Airmen and civilian employees, but to one special Veteran, the community of Altus is where he calls home.

Who would have predicted that a young man from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania would go through a career in the Air Force and eventually end up settling in Altus? Retired Tech Sgt. Terry Kratz retired from the Air Force in 1994 here at AAFB, and has lived here ever since. 

From Florida to Ramstein AFB, Germany, Kratz lived all over the world during his service to the Air Force. A career that was supposed to be in firefighting, started as supply and eventually transitioned to computer programming. 

After changing duty stations to Altus in 1982, Kratz was on the non-volunteer list to crosstrain, but he didn’t want to leave supply.

“I wanted to stay in supply and my supervisor said ‘have you thought about the computer side of supply,’” said Kratz. “I said ‘sure why not,’ and little did I know I would fall in love with it.”

What Kratz didn’t know is that he would not be leaving Altus until he retired. He was in a small career field where he was good at his job and his leadership didn’t want him to leave.

“My desire for perfection drove me,” said Kratz. “So they basically put an administrative hold on me because they didn’t want to lose me. At that point, with programming in the Air Force, if you were good at your job, you became indispensable.”

While at Altus, Kratz experienced the tornado of 1982, the Gulf War and the transition wing’s from Air Mobility Command to an Air Education and Training Command. He would eventually retire in 1994 after 20 years of service. 

After retiring from the military, Kratz had difficulty adjusting to the civilian work environment.

“There were pros and cons to civilian life,” said Kratz, “but I missed the structure and discipline of military life.”

Shortly after separating, Kratz went back to work on Altus AFB as a civilian; he was the assistant manager at Galaxy Bowling Lanes, then he took a position in supply as a forklift driver and ultimately earned his way to a management position. 

Kratz tried to make an impact on the people he interacted with throughout his Air Force and civilian careers, as well as off the clock.

“Terry is a very outgoing person who always treats everyone like he has known them all his life,” said Christopher Hargis, 97th Air Mobility Wing community support coordinator. “As a supervisor, he would talk to you in a way that you didn’t feel beneath him. Terry spent a lot of his time in civil service recognizing the efforts of those around him while not garnering any recognition of his own.”

Chris and his wife Gail have known Kratz for many years and have become close family friends, due to the kind of person Kratz is.

“Terry has the ability to make friends with anybody in a matter of minutes,” said Gail Hargis, 97th AMW chief of protocol. “When he talks to you, he makes you feel like the most important thing at the time, and he always finds goodness in people.” 

Kratz tries to be genuine and do everything with kindness, like spending time doing fun things for others. For example, he spent many years organizing the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Christmas event at Tipton Children’s Home.

“Terry has genuine love for children,” said Chris. “He made sure every kid had several gifts, as well as putting together the crew that would cook and serve food. He would dress up as Santa and hand out gifts too.”

Overall, Kratz has tried to lead a life of selflessness and caring for others, both while in and out of the service, dedicating himself to being the best at his job and pursuing perfection in whatever he did. Outside of his normal duties, he was involved with the Salvation Army and was a suicide prevention counselor. 

Kratz retired from civil service two and a half years ago, and now he spends most of his days golfing, camping and traveling. 

“I started working at age 14,” said Kratz. “So, from 14 to 62, I did nothing but work. Now, I love retirement.”