Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force (Ret.) Eric W. Benken had no intention of serving more than his first term of four years. With his plane ticket and separation paperwork in hand, he was ready to go back to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, until a chief master sergeant pulled him into his office for one last reminder of why it’s important to wear the uniform. The next day, Benken asked his commanding officer to reenlist him. He went on to become the 12th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, the highest enlisted position in the branch.
After joining in 1970 as an information management Airman, Benken served in various maintenance, operational and support units in the United States and in overseas locations such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, Belgium and Germany. Before his tenure as CMSAF in 1996, he served as the senior enlisted advisor of U.S. Forces in Europe. During his USAFE tour, the command was involved in operations such as PROVIDE PROMISE, PROVIDE COMFORT, DELIBERATE FORCE and JOINT ENDEAVOR. Benken retired in 1999 after 29 years of service, and continues to be actively involved in the Air Force community by engaging young Airmen on the importance of leadership and followership.