OG superintendent shares views after 29-year career

  • Published
  • By Ray Brzozowski
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Dalton Pratt, superintendent of the 97th Operations Group, retires at 10 a.m. Thursday in a ceremony at the Freedom Community Center, after 29 years of active duty service in the Air Force.
Although the chief was a positive force in the adoption of new training methods and equipment for boom operator students at Altus Air Force Base, he said his first job in the Air Force was much different. 

New beginnings: 1977 

"I was working as a farm equipment machinist right out of high school in Delaware and knew there was something more I could be doing. I talked with the local recruiter and entered the Air Force through the Delayed Enlistment Program. When I finally attended basic training, I was offered a job as a gunner on B-52's. This was the beginning of a great ride," said Chief Pratt. 

SAC lifestyle 

In his twenty nine years, Chief Pratt served as an aerial gunner and a boom operator on B-52 and KC-135 aircraft. While he deployed to dozens of countries and contingencies across the world, he was permanently stationed at six bases: K.I. Sawyer AFB, Mich., Carswell AFB, Texas, Castle AFB, Calif., Barksdale AFB, La., Scott AFB, Ill., and Altus AFB, Okla. 

"I arrived at K.I. Sawyer AFB in 1977. Our mission then was the Cold War, supporting America through nuclear deterrence. We spent a lot of time on alert waiting for the alarm to sound. When we weren't on alert, we were training. Everything we did was based on winning the Cold War," he said. 

In 1986, Chief Pratt was sent to Castle AFB to be a B-52 gunner instructor. According to the chief, this is where he discovered his love for training and where he believes he made his greatest contribution to the Air Force. 

"There's nothing more gratifying than taking a new recruit and teaching them a skill they will use for the remainder of their career. They come in with nothing more than an idea of what's expected of them. We hone their skills and send them out mission-ready. It's great," said the chief. 

Altus excels 

"The remarkable thing about Altus is that we're always looking for ways to improve training and quality of life for the enlisted force," said Chief Pratt. "We're light-years ahead, setting the pace, and that makes it exciting." 

"We teach with state-of-the-art equipment and simulators, ensure our airmen know the latest techniques in battlefield deployment scenarios and support the Global War On Terrorism through deployments. When you think about how small this base is and look at the huge impact we have on mobility forces across the globe, it's easy to see why Altus is so well respected," he remarked. 

New-age promotions 

Chief Pratt said some of the biggest changes in the Air Force have been in promotions and the way boards look at senior NCO's. 

"In the past we thought the way to the top was by being the very best you could be in your current rank and position. We didn't realize the only way there was through development of our subordinates. And if you think about it, someone helped you get promoted. Now you're expected to do the same thing." 

"If you are a staff sergeant, your job is to develop the basic airmen to senior airmen. If you want to be a chief today, you'd better be helping the NCOs behind you. You get to go to the next level when you train your subordinates to the level you're at right now." 

Most memorable mission
"The first night of Operation Desert Storm, I was flying a mission over northern Iraq. Our job was to put bombs on target. During that flight we saw two surface-to-air missiles launched at us, and a third was detected by our systems on board the aircraft. To survive that type of attack is a miracle, let alone still deliver the munitions where and when they were needed." 

"The people who influenced my career make a pretty long list, but one notable person is Chief Master Sgt. (ret'd) Marv "Mad Dog" Myers. We first crossed paths at K.I. Sawyer when I was a brand new Airman. He was a master sergeant at the time. Later, when I was assigned to Barksdale AFB, he was the chief who helped me cross-train into the boom operator career field. He was a living example of our core values long before the Air Force started putting them in writing." 

"I'm not leaving the Air Force because I've had enough. You don't do something for your entire adult life without truly enjoying yourself. But my time is up now, and thanks to our great system there are many very capable senior NCO's to pick up where I leave off," he said.