The best chief

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs

“You really don’t belong in this aircraft maintenance group.”

A technical sergeant at Hellenikon Air Base in Greece told that to pregnant Airman 1st Class Linda L. Menser in 1980.

So Menser got out of the Air Force and started her family.

But part of her didn’t want her Air Force career to end that way, so in September 1982, she joined the 514th Field Maintenance Squadron.

Thirty-eight years later, on April 2, 2017, Chief Master Sgt. Menser retired as the chief enlisted advisor and superintendent of the 514th Maintenance Group.

As the group superintendent, Menser was the commander’s advisor on all matters concerning the health, morale, welfare, and effective management of 102 Air Reserve Technicians and 500 reserve enlisted members.

More importantly, Menser was unique because she was the first 514th Maintenance superintendent who was a woman.

As Col. Anthony Esposito, the 514th Maintenance Group commander said, “I wonder where that technical sergeant is today. I would like to invite him to this (event).”

Menser’s retirement ceremony was held in the Wing’s maintenance hangar. In addition to Wing leadership, members of the Wing’s maintenance squadrons, friends, and family members, Maj. Gen. Randall A. Ogden 4th Air Force commander and 4th Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Brian C.L. Wong attended the event.

“We in maintenance do it, we do it together,” said Menser. “We are the TF (Total Force) King.”

“We’re sharing office spaces, we share the workload, we share the airplanes, we share the toolbox, we share the responsibilities and we do that day-in, day-out, and I know my guys are integral to making your systems work.”

Esposito described Menser as “The best chief I’ve got.”

With the exception of a four-year period from 1989-1994 where Menser served at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts, she stayed with the 514th and developed her skills as an expeditor, an aero repair technician, and as a C-141 Starlifter crew chief.

During her service, Menser rose steadily through both the enlisted ranks, and gained greater responsibility in the traditionally male-dominated world of aircraft maintenance. That included serving as a quality assurance inspector, an aircraft scheduler, a logistics planner and finally, as the 514th Maintenance Group’s superintendent.

In her retirement speech, Menser talked about change and accepting it.

“I know that change is scary, because I’ve been scared of it myself in my past 38 years,” said Menser. “But what you’ll find is that once you have done that change, then it becomes the new norm.”

“Be willing to take that extra step and be willing to embrace change.”

And finally, about that traditional, male-dominated world of maintenance.

During Menser’s retirement ceremony the 514th Air Mobility Wing Honor Guard performed the flag ceremony where the American flag is unfolded, displayed, and refolded. Once the flag was folded, it was passed from Airman Basic through all the enlisted ranks in between up to Senior Master Sergeant, and finally to Chief Master Sgt. Menser.

Each enlisted member was a woman, and all but one were maintainers.