67th NWW command chief retires after 30 years of service

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command Communications and Information director, congratulates Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, during his retirement ceremony at Arnold Hall here, Sept. 5. Renninger retired after 30 years of service in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command Communications and Information director, congratulates Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, during his retirement ceremony at Arnold Hall here, Sept. 5. Renninger retired after 30 years of service in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command Communications and Information director, shares a moment of reflection with Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, during the chief’s retirement ceremony at Arnold Hall here, Sept. 5. Wooton hired Renninger on as his command chief when he was in command of the 67th NWW and refers to him as “The Quiet Professional.” (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command Communications and Information director, shares a moment of reflection with Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, during the chief’s retirement ceremony at Arnold Hall here, Sept. 5. Wooton hired Renninger on as his command chief when he was in command of the 67th NWW and refers to him as “The Quiet Professional.” (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Then Airman Basic Mark Renninger poses for his official photo during basic training in 1982. Chief Master Sgt. Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. He said entering the Air Force at an older age (he turned 22 in basic training) may have played a part in rapidly progressing through the ranks, but mostly gives credit to doing as he was told, being a team player and staying out of trouble. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Then Airman Basic Mark Renninger poses for his official photo during basic training in 1982. Chief Master Sgt. Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. He said entering the Air Force at an older age (he turned 22 in basic training) may have played a part in rapidly progressing through the ranks, but mostly gives credit to doing as he was told, being a team player and staying out of trouble. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. He spent 1983 through 1985 as an 82nd Combat Support Squadron Consolidated Base Personnel Office administration clerk at Royal Air Force Bentwaters, United Kingdom. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. He spent 1983 through 1985 as an 82nd Combat Support Squadron Consolidated Base Personnel Office administration clerk at Royal Air Force Bentwaters, United Kingdom. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Then Senior Airman Mark Renninger, 3380th Field Maintenance Squadron technical administration clerk, displays his plaque after winning the Outstanding Administrator of the Quarter award for his efforts from July through September of 1985. Chief Master Sgt. Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO–LACKLAND, Texas -- Then Senior Airman Mark Renninger, 3380th Field Maintenance Squadron technical administration clerk, displays his plaque after winning the Outstanding Administrator of the Quarter award for his efforts from July through September of 1985. Chief Master Sgt. Renninger, the former 67th Network Warfare Wing command chief master sergeant, retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall here Sept. 5, after 30 years of service. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND , Texas -- Chief Master Sgt. Mark Renninger is a marathon runner and after 30 years, the man dubbed "The Quiet Professional" has finished his race through the ranks of the enlisted corps.

The former command chief of the 67th Network Warfare Wing retired during a ceremony at Arnold Hall Sept. 5.

"It's a bit scary after doing this my whole life," he said "After doing this for 30 years - knowing where I was going, knowing what my next job was going to be, knowing what I was going to wear to work every day... Now, all that changes and that's intimidating."

But, "quitter" isn't said when people speak of Renninger, who finished the 26.2 mile Air Force Marathon in less than three and-a-half hours at 50 years old last September.

"Chief is the epitome of 'quiet' leadership," according to Brig. Gen. Kevin Wooton, Air Force Space Command Communications and Information director, and formerly the chief's commander at the 67th NWW. "Not demonstrable, he made his career as both my group superintendent and command chief by quietly taking care of Airmen; making sure their concerns were heard and providing the example on how an American Airman acts."

Wooton, who hired Renninger on as his command chief in August 2010, said he learned to trust the chief's judgment when Renninger was his group superintendent at the 584th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

"I could give him my commander's intent and I knew that would be transmitted to my other senior noncommissioned officers and working force," the general explained. "He always was a trusted sounding board, but never a yes man. I could count on him to give me 'ground truth' even if I disagreed - then, we could have a great discussion, and I knew he would walk out the door and would be the strongest supporter of our command decision - even if he had disagreed earlier. He understands 'loyalty' isn't being a sycophant, it's being a partner in making decisions - if I had any success at all in two different commands, it came as much from the work of Chief Renninger as any source."

The command chief credits much of his tenacity and stick-to-itiveness to his father, Herbert, who served in the Air Force for 28 years before retiring as a senior master sergeant.

"Mark, his brother John, and I have accumulated a total of 84 years of active military service. It means the world to me that they both chose to serve their country in the United States Air Force," said his father who watched Renninger's progression through the ranks with pride. "As a retired E-8, I realize what a feat it is to be promoted to E-9. I am very proud of Mark, as I am of my other children and their accomplishments in life. When Mark first enlisted, I did not expect him to come this far, though I was sure he had the potential. What a pleasant surprise when he kept re-enlisting and sewing on more stripes."

Promotion did come quickly for Renninger, but the veteran doesn't have some magic formula or set way of doing things as the answer to how he advanced as quickly as he did. He said entering the Air Force at an older age (he turned 22 in basic training) may have been a factor, but mostly he just did as he was told, was always a team player and stayed out of trouble.

"I think I've just had jobs where I've had a little bit more responsibility from the beginning," he explained. "I always did my job the best I could. I did what I was told to do and usually a little bit more. I wasn't the guy who was bucking the system. When I was told to get my [career development courses] done, I got my CDCs done. When I was supposed to get to work on time, I'd come to work on time, maybe a little early, and stay late if necessary ... until the job was done. There's no secret formula. The Air Force is a very structured environment, and I don't want to over-simplify it but, as long as you follow the rules and do what you're told, you'll be successful. But I also think I've been pretty lucky to have had some awesome supervisors, coworkers and subordinates. Nobody gets to this point in a career without being surrounded by folks who support, assist and challenge you."

Renninger had to rely on luck when it came to assignments because he wasn't the type to manipulate the system.

"You always hear of people 'working' assignments," he recalled. "I just put in for assignments where the Air Force needed me and I got some really good ones - Hawaii, Germany, Italy and Egypt."

As a young supervisor, he pushed his Airmen to know what was expected of them and he outlined paths they could take toward success.

Capt. DeLuca Thurmond, 647th Force Support Squadron Sustainment Services Flight commander, was new to the Air Force in 1988 and Renninger served as his first supervisor. Renninger sat the Airman down and told him to read the Air Force regulations about his job so he would know what was expected of him and made it clear he could come to Renninger when he needed help. Thurmond said this approach set him on the right track and encouraged him to always research everything he did before considering his actions, something critical for a young personnelist.

When Thurmond exceeded expectations, Renninger made sure he was recognized for his hard work.

"He is the true and shining example of a mentor," said Thurmond. "I would not be an officer today in the Air Force, if it was not for him setting the stage for me to grow as an Airman, non-commissioned officer and officer. Still today I tell every Airman that the key to having a successful career in the Air Force is to have an awesome supervisor at your first duty station because he or she sets the tone and path for years to come."

The years brought many changes for the command chief who began his career as a 702 - a staff support administration specialist. In 1986, the Air Force converted his Air Force specialty code which led to him going to work in a squadron orderly room and eventually becoming a full-on personnelist.

Deb Riso, who supervised Renninger when he was a young staff sergeant, said she had no doubt he was chief material.

"He has the personality, drive, initiative and the ability to make people work," she explained. "You could see it way back then and I'm very proud to have been a part of his career."

She said they made a great team and that she could never quite replace what he brought to the table when he moved to his next assignment.

"If I wanted to do something he'd help bring it together, she said. "By the time the two of us worked through the idea it was pretty darn close to perfect. He was the calm, steady influence. He was extremely dedicated and the section ran smooth. He looked at problems and developed solutions. I know that he will go on after his Air Force career and become an asset to wherever he works. He actually is the epitome of the overused phrase, 'cream of the crop.'"

During his assignment at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Renninger was part of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting - the unit responsible for accounting for the missing from the Vietnam War. He also took part in repatriation ceremonies in Hanoi and spent some time in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

"That was not something everybody gets to do, so it was definitely mind broadening and rewarding," he said.

Renninger took that broadening experience and others like it, and used them to become a better leader.

Throughout his career, Renninger developed his skill set in different jobs that were "on the outer fringes of the personnel career field." He was a group supervisor; he worked for the National Security Agency and even held a position at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt as the superintendent of personnel and resource management.

"I arrived in Egypt two months before [Sept. 11, 2001]," he said. "After the attacks, things got tough in the region, but not so much in Egypt. The Egyptians treated us fine and, after a while, we didn't have many restrictions on us. We were still able to do some traveling and I got to see many of the pyramids and experience the culture. That really was a great assignment."

After Egypt, Renninger was assigned to the military personnel flight at Fort George G. Meade, Md., but when he was selected to chief master sergeant, he couldn't stay in his position and moved to the NSA located on the same base.

"So then I started doing joint-NSA personnel work, which is similar but not directly tied to my AFSC because NSA does things differently," he explained. "And then I was a group superintendent at Beale from 2007 to 2010 and deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan as the mission support group superintendent while there."

Renninger said today's Airmen entering the Air Force amaze him. He said their education levels and the responsibilities they're given far exceed those of most Airmen entering the service three decades ago.

"The Air Force has changed a lot," he said. "The Airmen coming in now are so much smarter, so much better educated than most of us were back then. Now we've got enlisted Airmen coming in with degrees or getting their degrees while on active duty all the time. That was something we talked about, but we didn't do it as much as we should have when I was coming up through the ranks."

For Renninger, back then doesn't seem so long ago and as he sorts through the opportunities ahead, he's astonished the blue finish line came as fast as it did.

"I've known for 30 years that I'd be retiring from the Air Force and moving on to something else, but for some reason, I'm still surprised that time has come," he said. "I've had an awesome career and hope I've made a positive impact. It has been an honor to serve this great nation, but now it's time for me to step aside and let the next generation of Airmen take the reins. I'm supremely confident we're in good hands and that our Air Force will continue to be the best in the world."