ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee took command of Air Force Reserve Command Sept. 7, but prior to his assumption of command ceremony, a smaller group gathered to witness his promotion ceremony. Little did the other attendees know, but there was an unbelievable reunion happening in the back of the auditorium.
Narvin Stewart, currently a chief master sergeant who serves as the individual mobilization augmentee to Air Force Reserve Air, Command Cyberspace and Technology (A6) chief enlisted manager, had just graduated from high school in 1994 and wasn’t sure where to go from there. He said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wondered if the military was the way to go.”
Stewart first met with a Navy recruiter. “The Navy wasn’t the right choice for me,” he said. “I then decided to make an appointment with an Air Force recruiter. When I came home from my appointment, my dad asked how it went and I said, ‘Well, I leave for Basic Training on Feb. 11.’
“I began to regret that decision within my first hour in basic military training.” Stewart shared his memory of that first night. “It was cold and about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. We were in formation waiting for what was coming at us next. That’s when the military training instructors came outside and started taking us through the luggage ‘pick ‘em up, put ‘em down’ drill. It’s hilarious looking back now but wasn’t at all funny in that moment. This all took place over the weekend. The following Monday we met our MTIs, (then) Tech Sgt. Bales, Staff Sgt Juarez and Senior Airman Johnson.
“Although Johnson was shorter than most of the trainees, she put a fear in us that some, including myself, had never experienced. You did not want her yelling at you.
“The first two weeks were pretty rough, due to the yelling, long days, training and academics. I remember asking myself several times, ‘What in the world was I thinking signing up for this?’”
Needless to say, Stewart survived BMT and has had a very successful Air Force career. He is now the IMA to Chief Master Sgt. Teresita Kobilis.
When selecting who would augment her position, Kobilis played a key role in the process. She said, “We conducted telephone interviews then I had a visit to Duke Field (Fla.), where Stewart was assigned to the 919th Special Operations Wing. During that visit, I first met him in person. He was the embodiment of integrity, service before self and excellence and he demanded others uphold and live by those core values. His new position would demand nothing less.” The panel selected him for the position and he came to Robins Air Force Base for Reserve duty shortly afterward.
Kobilis said, “While Chief Stewart was on annual tour at Robins, we attended the promotion ceremony of Lt. Gen. Scobee. As time afforded, prior to the event, I was introducing Chief Stewart to as many individuals as possible. At that time I saw Chief Imelda Johnson, (22nd AF command chief).”
“I’ve been at HQ AFRC for several years and when I first arrived to Robins, Chief Johnson was in (Air Force Reserve manpower, personnel and services, personnel division) A1K as the chief of enlisted force development.” Kobilis explained. “As I moved into a position in the front office and worked frequently with the AFRC command chief’s office, our interactions were more frequent.”
“My impression of Chief Johnson is that she is easy to get along with, friendly and fair.”
Johnson remembered her time at Robins, “My time at AFRC was very enlightening. It gave me more of a strategic view of operations. I made some friends with whom I still communicate.”
Johnson left HQ AFRC after she was selected to be the command chief of the 310th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
“When it was time for me to move on from the 310th, my 10th AF command chief encouraged me to apply for positions within another numbered air force to broaden my experienced.”
Johnson applied for and was selected to be the 22nd AF command chief. As a NAF CCM, Johnson was invited to return to Robins for Scobee’s promotion and assumption of command.
Johnson spoke of her time at Robins and remembered meeting Kobilis.
“I met Chief Kobilis when I was working across the hall from her in the command chief’s office,” Johnson said. “She excels as a MAJCOM functional manager and as a chief. I have seen her grow into both roles with a positive outcome and she always has a positive attitude.”
Prior to Scobee’s promotion ceremony, as Kobilis was introducing Stewart to people, she saw Johnson and the two begin catching up, but that wasn’t the reunion formerly mentioned.
Stewart recalled that moment. “Chief Kobilis and I were sitting in the auditorium waiting for the ceremony to begin when she stood up to greet someone who was walking up the aisle. At the time, I couldn’t see who she was talking to but when she gestured for me to come next to her so she could introduce me, I stood up and saw Chief Johnson.
"I recognized her right away. It was like one of those moments you see on TV when the character is surrounded by a bunch of people, but he doesn’t hear anyone talking. Chief Kobilis told me later that she could tell by the look on my face that something was happening. Chief Johnson said hello to me and as Chief Kobilis was introducing us and I replied to Johnson, ‘I know who you are, you were one of my TIs in basic training!
“You could see a look of surprise on everyone’s faces. We talked for a few minutes and then my face suddenly got all sweaty. Maybe some part of my subconscious still saw her as Senir Airman Johnson, the TI. I had to excuse myself to go to the restroom to clean myself up.”
Johnson said that was her favorite takeaway from the reunion.
“The fact that he had to excuse himself because he started sweating, was my favorite part. I told him I didn’t mean to make him relive his BMT memories. I’m happiest to know he made the Air Force a career and earned a promotion to the highest enlisted rank. I enjoyed speaking with him and listening to his achievements; he is an asset to the Air Force. He is definitely a high performer and is not done yet.”
She continued, “It’s always a rewarding experience when I meet former Trainees. Seeing Stewart’s accomplishments reinforced the reason I became a TI – to train the best Airmen possible for a career of service in the Air Force. It was humbling to hear him thank me for starting him off on the right path. He has done an excellent job and I am definitely proud of him.
Those words of pride are what Stewart longed to hear during the long days and nights throughout basic training.
He said, “As the weeks of BMT progressed, there was less yelling as we entered the build-up phase. I think because Johnson was so tough on us, it made us try harder to impress her. One time I’ve always remembered was when she marched us to the drill pad and showed us for the first time how to do the marching movement, Marching to the Rear.
"After a good 10 minutes of practice, we were going back and forth like a well-oiled machine and that’s when it happened. She changed her cadence and yelled, ‘To the rear, march!’ and we did a perfect 180 degree turning movement as she was yelling, ‘Step, pivot, 12, 24…’ As we completed the marching to the rear she yelled, “Good!” That compliment has stuck with me to this day.
“By the end of BMT, I had gained so much respect for all three of my TIs. Before we left for tech school, my whole flight made it a point to thank them for being such great instructors. That was the last time I spoke with Johnson; it was March 1994.”
Stewart departed BMT and served five years on active duty at Lackland AFB before using the Palace Chase program to join the Air Force Reserve. He spent 19 years as a traditional reservist with the 919th SOW, where he gained experience in multiple career fields and completed several deployments. Once he reached senior master sergeant, he decided to look for growth opportunities.
“I enjoyed being a part of the 919th (Special Operations Communications Squadron). I knew the next chapter of my Reserve career would require me to leave Duke Field so once I came to terms with that reality, I started searching for vacancies and advertisements. That’s how I found the IMA position at AFRC and decided to apply.”
That application led him to his new position and that unbelievable reunion.
Kobilis said, “Although stunned by meeting someone from the beginning of his Air Force career, Stewart was honored for the foundation Johnson provided him of how and who he should be in the Air Force. All of us have memories of BMT, unfortunately not all are good but they are the ground work that provides our Air Force with pride, leadership, followership and teamwork.”
Stewart ended, “It was great to see Chief Johnson and to reminisce about BMT with her. I was ecstatic to see that she has made her way up the ranks to become the 22nd AF command chief. While speaking with her after the promotion ceremony, she was able to tell me about what my other TIs did in their Air Force careers, which was pretty cool because I think everyone at some point wonders what happened with their TIs. Although witnessing the AFRC assumption of command was great, this reunion just made that moment even more significant and memorable for me. I wish Chief Johnson the best and maybe we’ll meet again soon.”