ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
When it comes to joining the U.S. military, some people intend to serve only four years, while others serve for 20, and then there are a rare few who say the maximum tenure of 30 isn’t enough.
Edward Cole, former 48th Fighter Wing Community Support Director, retired after 53 years of service to the U.S. Air Force June 29, 2018. He dedicated 30 years as active duty enlisted and 23 years as a civil servant.
Cole enlisted in the Air Force in 1965 as an air policeman and initially assigned to Shulinkou Air Station, Taiwan. Throughout the rest of his military career he was stationed at Royal Air Force Chicksands, England; Iraklion Air Station, Crete; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, Taiwan; Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; RAF Molesworth, England; Comiso Air Station, Italy; and RAF Lakenheath, England.
“The joy for me is that I joined because I wanted to travel,” he said. “The reason I was so interested in travelling is because of National Geographic. I used to read the articles and look at the pictures and think ‘woah, there’s a lot of interesting places and people out there! I’d love to see that’ but I really couldn’t afford it. The Air Force provided me that opportunity.”
During Cole’s service as an air policeman, security policeman and eventually a security forces defender, he worked with the Secret Service as security for President Ronald Reagan, and was selected number one out of 27,000 Airmen to be awarded with the Air Force-level Law Enforcement Specialist of the Year.
“I really enjoy helping people,” he said. “I have had the opportunity to grow personally and professionally by being in the military. I came into the military at a young age and as with most young people, there are some things I had to learn.”
After his retirement in 1995, from the U.S. Air Force after 30 years of service, he began his civilian career at the RAF Mildenhall after-school childcare center. He then transferred to the commissary and the Base Exchange and eventually made his way to a Governmental Service position at RAF Lakenheath as the drug demand reduction manager for the Drug Demand Reduction Program.
“I’m going to miss that common bond we all have…that comradery,” he said. “I’ve been in this system for such a long time that I’ve established fantastic friendships and relationships.”
“Service to me means dedication,” he said. “I’m always impressed when I see people giving everything they have. You might not get a lot, but they’re giving everything they have and to me that says it all.”
The diversity, experience and dedication of Airmen are the driving force behind the U.S. Air Force.