Utah ANG’s State Command Chief Retires
By Senior Master Sgt. Gary Rihn, Utah ANG HQ PA
/ Published April 07, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY -- After 27 years of dedicated military service, State Command Chief Master Sergeant Denise Rager retired on April 6, 2013, at a ceremony conducted at the Utah Air National Guard base.
Chief Rager was the top enlisted service member in the Utah Air Guard before her retirement.
Rager began her military career with the Air Force as a Chapel Management Specialist at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., in 1981. Over the ensuing years, she also served as an Airborne Spanish Cryptologic Linguist, a First Sergeant, and a Command Chief, before culminating at the State Command Chief position.
In those positions, she had the opportunity to fly on classified missions around the world, providing critical intelligence to aid commanders. She was one of a select group of people to ever travel to Antarctica, where she served as a First Sergeant, ensuring the welfare of hundreds of troops. She served as an international diplomatic liaison and goodwill ambassador in Morocco, where she delivered supplies to an orphanage and visited a clinic where US military doctors provided critical care to locals.
Closer to home, Rager was instrumental in reviving the Utah ANG Airman of the Year board, delivering recognition to the top airmen and non-commissioned officers in the unit.
During her retirement ceremony, Rager was quick to praise those around her, and freely gave credit to those she considered mentors. She was also recognized for her many outstanding contributions to the military. Chief Rager was presented the Legion of Merit medal for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements; the first time ever that a State Command Chief has received that level of recognition.
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve with the best people in the world's best Air Force," said Rager, during her retirement speech.
Chief Rager summed up her career as an opportunity to advance, to learn, and to excel.
"One day in 1981 I left my home and my family and made the trek to Lackland AFB," said Rager. "Not long after I got there, my NCOs were telling me I could go as far as I wanted to go, but I never really gave it much thought at that point and certainly didn't think I'd stay long enough to make it a career! But, they didn't care where I came from, or the color of my skin, or my gender, or what side of the tracks I grew up on. They said if I kept my end of the bargain, the Air Force would keep its part. I'm here to tell you today, every word they said was true."
Milestones in Rager's career were announced during a flag folding ceremony, in which the folded flag was passed from female Airman to female Airman, increasing in rank with each pass from Airman to Chief Master Sergeant.
As Chief Rager worked her way upwards through the ranks, she also developed her leadership style.
"I believe that if you empower people, give them the right tools, and make them feel valued and appreciated, they'll work like hell for you. And then the mission... the mission will take care of itself," said Rager.
"Life is good," concluded Rager.