Go Blue, Stay Blue: Winkfield reports for duty

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Before Jimmel Winkfield, 97th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron deputy director, came to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to be an aircraft mechanic, he was Staff Sgt. Winkfield, an active-duty crew chief with six years of service to his country from 2009 until 2015.

On December 28, 2023, standing atop the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker at Altus AFB, Winkfield, raised his right hand to swear in for duty once again. Instead of stripes, the former crew chief will now don an officer’s bar with the 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as an Air Force Reserve officer at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. However, Winkfield first had to re-enter service as an enlisted member before being scheduled to attend Officer Training School.

“Re-enlisting has been surreal,” Winkfield said. “When I took off the uniform, I never expected to put it back on. I don’t take this opportunity lightly, but I am very excited to get back in the fight.”

Winkfield’s leadership at the 97th AMXS played a large role in his decision to re-enlist. While observing Winkfield’s leadership capabilities, Travis Caughlin, 97th Maintenance Group deputy director, among other supervisors in the MXG began encouraging Winkfield to pursue commissioning as an officer.

“I’m sure there was no better Airman when he was enlisted,” Caughlin said. “And there will be no better officer because I already know there is no better partner to work with on a day-to-day basis.”

Caughlin administered the oath of enlistment for Winkfield during his ceremony, which both described as “an honor.”

“Mr. Caughlin has been a mentor to me on the civilian and the military side,” Winkfield said. “To have him do my oath means more than he knows because I look up to him. It’s not a coincidence that everyone who has worked for him has had stellar careers and it’s a testament to his leadership.”

For Caughlin, administering the oath for an Airman is a privilege he has never turned down during his 32 years of military service and the years following in civilian service. In fact, that was the first piece of advice Coughlin gave to the beaming Winkfield as they walked off the KC-135.

“I told him, ‘Never turn down an opportunity to administer the oath,’” Caughlin said. “It’s a distinct honor and privilege that ties all of us together, from all different services. We all raise our right hand to swear to support the Constitution of the United States - that is what links us.”