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41-year veteran Airman still serving

Chief Loadmaster Philon is humble, gracious, credits three F’s for happy life

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You'd never know it looking at the slender-built, soft-spoken African American Airman in the green jumpsuit, but Senior Master Sergeant and Chief Loadmaster Terrance Philon is 59-years old. He's also the oldest person still flying on JBLM, and only one of three remaining Servicemembers at McChord that has experienced firsthand the C-141 A-model.

Philon has been at McChord since 1976, and joined the Air Force right out of high-school. He served 10 years active-duty and has been in the Reserves since. In December, the Ohio native will finally retire from the 313th Airlift Squadron, 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field.

"I joined because my brother served 17-years in the Air Force," said Philon. "I stayed because I loved it. I'm lucky to have the most fantastic job - I get to do things people see on the news - from humanitarian efforts such as Katrina to worldwide emergencies. Faith, family and friends have kept me going, too. Career-wise, I have no regrets and wouldn't have done any of it differently - it's been a great ride."

It wasn't always that way for Philon, though.

"I joined the service during the ‘good ‘ol boys' days," he said. "There wasn't a lot of African Americans flying nor much advancement back then. (Servicemembers) now enjoy more recognition from the civilian world, educational benefits are better, and the military is more responsive to the needs of troops."

Today, as an evaluator who also trains loadmasters, Philon says watching them advance and succeed is gratifying, because "turning (Airmen) into responsible, capable guys is something you don't experience every day," he said.  "I had one guy who had issues when he began but has become one of my best men. To see that metamorphosis is a great feeling."

Philon has won awards and recognitions, NCO of the quarter a few times, and medals and ribbons for campaigns from Panama to Iraqi Enduring Freedom, but maintains that, "keeping a low-profile and not being a glory-hound," is the only way to truly live.

"I tell my guys every day that their contributions matter," he said. "Even though they do the same thing daily and may not see the end-result, they're an intricate part of the mission. Dropping off a simple thing like a palette during an air-drop saves multiple lives and has an effect."

Philon has a son who served 20-years in Air Force and another who lives near JBLM. He has three grandchildren and lives by a "no-drama" three-part philosophy: "Be happy, never look back because everything happens for a reason," he said, "and most importantly - treat others the way you want to be treated."

The self-described perfectionist said that he's been a part of something bigger than himself during his military career and the most important lesson he's learned is to love what you do.

"You've got to love your job and give it your all," he said. "Carry your load, do your best and be proactive and face challenges head-on. Don't spin your wheels in a job you dislike, it's not worth it."

Philon said the best part of his job is bringing troops home.

"We take them in-country and as we descend they grow quiet," he said. "They know what they're about to face and it's hard to see them go. (We) close the door and leave, but whether we bring home three or 80 troops, when the job is done and we land at McChord - that's the best feeling in the world."

Photo: Sr. Master Sergeant and Chief Loadmaster Terrance Philon, of the 313th Airlift Squadron, 446th Airlift Wing at McChord Field. Philon turns 60-years old in December and will retire after 41-years of service in the Air Force. He’s been stationed at McChord since 1976.

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