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McConnell colonel becomes chief

Colonel Michael Dillard, 22nd Maintenance Group commander and his family view a plaque that was presented to him by the Chief’s group and McConnell members for being inducted as an honorary enlisted chief master sergeant at a promotion ceremony Nov. 30. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

Colonel Michael Dillard, 22nd Maintenance Group commander and his family view a plaque that was presented to him by the Chief’s group and McConnell members for being inducted as an honorary enlisted chief master sergeant at a promotion ceremony Nov. 30. (photo by Tech. Sgt. Chyrece Campbell)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- -- "Being promoted to the grade of chief master sergeant is Col. Michael Dillard, 22nd Maintenance Group commander, said a chief during a ceremony here Dec. 1

The crowd went silent. People looked around at each other wondering if Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, 22nd Medical Group superintendent, realized what he had said.

Many people know about commissioning programs where enlisted members can become officers, but officers becoming enlisted?

Well, there is a program where officers can become honorary chief master sergeants in the Air Force. The program can be dated as far back as 1986.

"This honor is reserved for those individuals who significantly contributed to the enlisted corps," said Chief Master Sgt. Hans Deffner, a functional manager for Air Education and Training Command.

"Col. Dillard is the Airman among Airman by the way he leads and completes the mission," said Chief Gebhardt, the chef's group president. Chief master sergeants are individuals regarded as people who cannot be bought; whose word is their bond; who will make no compromise with wrong,; who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular; and who can say 'no' with emphasis, although all the world is saying 'yes.' Colonel Dillard exemplifies every word of what it means to be a chief."

Chief Gebhardt said McConnell has three known honorary chiefs: retired Col. Dave Kramer, author Dave Pelzer, and Col. Michael Dillard.

"There is no greater honor to be selected as an honorary chief," said Colonel Dillard.

"I was shocked and felt like I was having an out of body experience when I heard my name called," the colonel said. "Realizing that this is a very big deal to join the chiefs' fold, I thought about how proud my father would be of me if he was alive to see this."

When Chief Gebhardt announced that Colonel Dillard needed to come up to the stage to become McConnell's honorary chief, Jeanene, Colonel Dillard's wife, Michelle, 17, and Jeana, 11, Col. Dillard's daughters, walked to the front to share the moment with the colonel.

"With his dad retiring as a master sergeant, Colonel Dillard always makes comments about the contributions of the enlisted," said his wife Jeanene of more than 24 years. "I am ecstatic that he is being recognized for the qualities I see in him everyday."