AFDW bids farewell to departing vice commander
By Airman 1st Class Tabitha N. Haynes, Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs
/ Published June 29, 2012
Joint Base Andrews, Md. -- "I am very high on Jeff. Deep thinker; biased for action; steady hand in a crisis; works tough issues with style and class," said (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Loyd S. Utterback, in an archived officer performance report referencing Col. Jeffrey L. Stephenson during a previous assignment.
These words still reflect the retiring officer's 27 years of service to the United States Air Force, his country, and the type of person Stephenson remains to be, said Air Force District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew, as he recognized the officer during his retirement ceremony June 28 on Joint Base Andrews, Md.
Stephenson spent his final year in uniform leading Airmen as the AFDW vice commander and laying a foundation for the command. Approximately 150 guests came to celebrate his journey.
"I have been in denial for several months about his departure - even today when I passed his office," said McDew. "I want to thank you personally for the journey we have been on the last year."
Leadership and laying foundations has been a theme in Stephenson's life.
In 1985, he graduated from Ole Miss with a pre-medicine degree and was waiting on a phone call from the University of Mississippi Medical School - he hoped to become a doctor.
"I got a different phone call instead," said Stephenson. "I got a call out of the blue from a recruiter named Charles."
Stephenson said he never planned on joining the military, but decided to accept the recruiter's offer to take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. With high scores, he soon found himself on his way to pilot training.
"A long time ago if you would have asked me if I would have been in the Air Force, I would have said 'No,'" he said.
He now carries a chest full of stories he created as a humble servant, said McDew - choosing to lay a foundation to serve his country in the Air Force, instead of pursuing his medical career.
"Col. Stephenson, his wife Tina and their family have made countless sacrifices in bringing them and each of us to this day," said Col. David M. Fitz-Patrick, AFDW Chaplain during the invocation. "He has left an indelible imprint on the Air Force District of Washington, on the Air Force, on our country and on our world."
"Military service is a family affair," said McDew. "He just gets to stand up here and represent them."
Stephenson's wife, Tina, and children, Greg and Michelle, were also celebrated during the ceremony.
"You were born into service; you have had a series of life experiences that many will never understand," McDew said to the children. "You have missed your father. You have missed friends along the way. You have had to say goodbye along the way - more times than you have wanted to say it. But you have realized that your father's and mother's service entailed sacrifice. You had to weather the storm that came with their service. Your service and sacrifice are real, and we want to thank you for what you have done for our United States Air Force."
The "military brat," whose father retired after serving more than 35 years, served his family as well to lay a foundation that would carry on a "good name - something to be proud of in the south."
"You have cried with our families," McDew said to Tina. "You have prayed with our families. You have definitely supported our families. You have raised children, many times alone. You have fixed machinery. You have mowed lawns on your own. You have had the pains, the joys and the triumphs of military service. You are indeed a saint."
McDew said Stephenson was one of 247 Airmen remaining on active duty from 7,317 who commissioned in 1985.
"I think we were a pretty good team," said McDew. "I think the road we paved for AFDW, thanks to you, is a solid road with a strong foundation. I am very high on Jeff - Deep thinker; biased for action; steady hand in a crisis; works tough issues with style and class. That is Jeff Stephenson."
On Aug. 31, 2012, Stephenson will officially retire from the United Stated Air Force by order of the Secretary of the Air Force.
"It has been my honor to serve with you," said Stephenson. "I am big on name. I hope you found me worthy of the name and title of 'Vice Commander.'"