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NEWS | March 8, 2024

Nokomis chief master sergeant retires with 34 years of service

By Master Sgt. Kassidy L. Snyder, 65th Troop Command Brigade

Chief Master Sgt. Amanda G. Stewart, of Nokomis, Illinois, was honored for 34 years of military service during a retirement ceremony at the 126th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) Hangar, Scott AFB, Illinois, March 3.  

The 126th ARW Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS) Commander Lt. Col. Brad Kahrhoff, of Trenton, Illinois, presented Stewart with a Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding service during a distinguished career in the United States Air Force.  

Stewart enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard (ILANG) in April 1990 as a material storage and distribution specialist at the 183rd Fighter Wing (FW) in Springfield, Illinois. She continued to stay within the logistics community her entire career and supported multiple aircraft.  

“I chose the Air National Guard because several people from my hometown were members and I saw they had successful careers, talked about the traveling opportunities and were still able to be around home,” said Stewart. “I enlisted, got a full-time job, and never left.” 

After graduating basic training, she returned to the 183rd to complete on-the-job training that qualified as her technical school. Stewart spent her first 18 years of service in the Logistics Readiness Squadron at the 183rd FW. She worked in the warehouse and delivered bench stock parts to various shops on base that all supported the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft mission.  

“Nothing beats hearing a fighter jet take off or fly by,” recalled Stewart of her days in Springfield. “I enjoyed seeing how my duties fit into the overall mission and you can’t fly without supply.” 

In 1993, she was ordered to state active duty in support of Operation Wave Rider, the largest state active duty mission in the history of the Illinois National Guard.  More than 7,000 Soldiers and Airmen were activated after heavy rains led to record flooding of the Mississippi, Illinois, Rock, Sangamon and Wabash rivers. 

“Working side-by-side with local citizens and my fellow Airmen was a memorable experience,” said Stewart. “Being transported by a Chinook from one location to another was something I had never experienced. We stayed in high schools, slept in hallways and classrooms as everyone worked around the clock to stop the flooding from destroying homes.” 

Stewart became a full-time federal technician in 1994. She held a multitude of technician and leadership positions within the logistics career field from base level to the entire material management.   

“She was one of the hardest working, dedicated, and team-oriented Airman I have ever supervised or had the opportunity to serve with,” said ILANG State Command Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) Jimmie E. Flinn, of Chandlerville, Illinois. Flinn was Stewart’s supervisor from her young Airman years into her early noncommissioned officer (NCO) years. “That work ethic remained with her throughout her entire career and as the State Command Chief, I was proud to serve alongside her as a fellow Chief.” 

After working in the warehouse, she transitioned to a specialty field as a supply systems analyst.  She managed all supply system activities, employing systems analysis techniques to manage and control supply system processes. 

Stewart deployed multiple times in support of operations across the globe.  By 2006, she supported Operations Southern Watch in Kuwait, Noble Eagle in Bahrain and Enduring Freedom in Qatar. She also supported drug interdiction and counternarcotics operations at Howard AFB in Panama City, Panama.   

“You don’t realize it at the time, but interacting with people on your deployments and sharing experiences and expertise will help develop you as a person and leader in the future,” recalled Stewart of her many trips all over the world. “I am still in contact with people from deployments and gained different programs that I took back to help my unit operate better and more efficiently.” 

In July 2008, Stewart transferred to the 126th ARW after the 183rd lost its flying mission due to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.  She became a charter member of the 126th Supply Chain Operations (Management) Squadron.  

“Her leadership skills really started to shine after we transitioned to the 126th,” said Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.) Diane Parker, of Boston, Massachusetts, who also moved from the 183rd to 126th. “Amanda has a way of pushing you to always want to do better. She truly is a natural born leader.” 

While at the 126th, Stewart supported the KC-135 Stratotanker which provides aerial refueling capabilities.  The KC-135 keeps the F-16s in the air and she was able to see the aircraft she previously supported refueled on numerous occasions, she said.  Additionally, she supported KC-135s while deployed to Bahrain and it came full circle supporting them again at 126th. 

“When Chief came into our organization, she was a breath of fresh air,” said Tech Sgt. Robby Aguilar, of O’Fallon, Illinois, the NCO in charge of 126th LRS Cargo Movement Operations. “She would never tell you to do anything she wouldn’t do herself.” 

Stewart supported many training deployments throughout her career.  She said some highlights include places such as Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska; Powidz Air Base, Poland; Hickham Air Force Base (AFB), Honolulu, Hawaii; and Aviano AFB, Italy.  

In December 2016, Stewart achieved the Air Force’s highest enlisted rank of chief master sergeant and served as the president of the 126th ARW’s Chiefs Group from 2017-2024.  

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to reach the top and become a chief master sergeant,” said Stewart. “I had great mentors who drove me to be the best and I kept setting goals for myself and achieving them.”  

Not only does she drive herself at work, but outside of the uniform she is heavily involved in her community.  In 2019, she received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal in recognition of performing outstanding volunteer community service.  She is a member of her local Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion, supporting several Veterans Day programs and community events each year.  

She was called to State Active Duty and served as the Wing Control Center Superintendent for COVID-19 testing support in 2020 and Military Vaccination Augmentation Team support in 2021.   

“Any officer in the military needs to have a strong senior NCO with them,” said 126th Maintenance Group Commander Col. Timothy Huchel, of Fairmont, Illinois. “Chief Master Sergeant Stewart was mine while working in the Wing Control Center during COVID-19.  Her organizational skills were second to none and she did the majority of her duties working from home because of the COVID-19 restrictions. It would not have operated as meticulous as it did without her dedication and hard work.” 

After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, there was a mission need in the Traffic Management Office (TMO) and Stewart attended the Traffic Management Apprentice Course. She managed TMO, Ground Transportation, and Air Transportation elements within the Logistics Readiness Deployment and Distribution flight.  

“I’ve grown to what I hope is a better officer, serving the personnel that truly accomplish the mission around me and I owe that to her,” said 126th LRS Operations Officer Capt. Justin Högman, of Highland, Illinois. “In her time serving in our squadron, I believe she’s done a great job to improve communication and mentorship amongst our Airmen.” 

Stewart’s last military position was as the Distribution Flight Chief within the 126th LRS.  She plans to stick close to the 126th as she currently works in the War Reserve Material section of the 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing as a federal civilian employee. She said she is happy to transition from a military member to a civilian employee. She plans to spend more time with her family on the weekends and further her involvement in the community.