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George Hays

Colonel (Ret.) George Hays started his military career wanting to keep a family tradition of military service, ultimately spending more than 40 years of duty in the Air Force. He served in Vietnam and Thailand as an enlisted communications specialist during the Vietnam War. He then attended Officer Training School as a technical sergeant in 1982. “After I decided to stay in and the subsequent deployments came, I felt like at that point I owned the mission.” According to Hays, when you own the mission, you do what it takes to get it done instead of just doing what you are assigned. “It’s an attitude you either have or don’t have,” Hays said. “If you don’t, in a lot of cases the mission doesn’t get done.” Hays became one of the first 13 Airmen to earn an Army Ranger tab. In 2003, Hays volunteered to go to Iraq in the pursuit of Saddam Hussein – and volunteered again in 2006, completing 81 combat missions. As a result, he was awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal. Hays retired in July 2012 as the longest-serving colonel in the Air Force. As his career came to an end, Hays explained that he stayed in the service because he enjoyed the work and contributing to the mission. “I still would join today,” Hays said. “I will always love and defend my God, my family, my friends and this great country.”