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Saying Goodbye to a "Heck" of a Guy

New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. David D. Heckman passes the streamers to 174th Fighter Wing Commander US Air Force Col. Kevin W. Bradley at Hancock Field in Syracuse, NY on September 10, 2011.  The passing of the streamers is to signify his transition from the Command Chief possition and the transfer of responsibility as he moves into retirement. (National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/Released)

New York Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. David D. Heckman passes the streamers to 174th Fighter Wing Commander US Air Force Col. Kevin W. Bradley at Hancock Field in Syracuse, NY on September 10, 2011. The passing of the streamers is to signify his transition from the Command Chief possition and the transfer of responsibility as he moves into retirement. (National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call/Released)

Hancock Field Air National Guard Base -- On September 10, 2011, Hancock Field said goodbye to Command Chief Master Sergeant David D. Heckman during a retirement and change of authority ceremony held here. As part of the ceremony, Chief Heckman turned over his authority to Chief Master Sergeant Russell Youngs who became the fourth command chief of Hancock Field.

Chief Heckman assumed the duties of Command Chief on March 3, 2007. He initially joined the U.S. Air Force in April of 1972, at age 17, through the Delayed Enlistment Program and attended basic military training in August 1972 followed by weapons mechanic school at Lowry AFB, Denver, CO. Chief Heckman's first assignment was at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina as a weapons loader and then as a member of the Load Standardization Crew (LSC). In 1979, as a Staff Sergeant he was hired as a full-time Air Technician as the 174th Fighter Wing converted to the A-10 Warthog. In 1982, as a Tech Sergeant he became the NCOIC of the LSC and was in charge of overseeing the training program for 15 squadron load crews. In 1985, as a Master Sergeant he was hired to work in the quality control section as a weapons inspector for the maintenance squadron. In 1988, he was hired as the Wing Ground Safety Manager.

In 1990, as a Senior Master Sergeant Mr. Heckman was activated for Desert Shield/Storm and deployed to Saudi Arabia where he worked as the NCOIC for the Wing Safety Office. In 2000, he was promoted to the grade of Chief Master Sergeant through the Exceptional Promotions Program. In 2002, he was assigned to the maintenance squadron as the Maintenance Superintendent for LGM II. In 2004, he was assigned as the Operations Group Superintendent and the Deputy Chief Master Sergeant of Airfield Management.

Chief Heckman is also a life member of the Wing Heritage Club, The Greenwood American Legion Post 1725 and the Constantia VFW Post 7325, where he was a past Commander. He is a member of the Constantia Volunteer Fire Department where he was a past Vice President and served as a Fire Commissioner for five years.

Chief Heckman said that being promoted to Command Chief was the most significant promotion of his career. "When you put those stripes on your arm, you start to feel the burden of responsibility". "There's nobody out there that can just walk in and be a Command Chief. It's a challenging job so you have to grow into it and then develop with the position."

After 39 years of military service, Chief Heckman plans on tending to his farm and relaxing whenever he can. The message he wanted to leave with the Airmen and future Airmen of Hancock Field is to "be proud to wear the uniform". When asked what one thing from the military would stick with him for the rest of his life, he smiled and said "the Air Force Core Values."