Full House for “Fired Up Chief”
Story by SrA Jonathon Carnell on 09/20/2019
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. Retired Chief Master Sgt. Juan Lewis presented Airmen with words of wisdom and encouragement July 26 at Travis AFB.
It was 9:40 a.m., and the auditorium was already fired up. Even the coral walls screamed of the motivation, pride, enthusiasm and passion to come. Slowly, the room filled with active-duty service members and civilians alike. They filled the seats and left some standingit was a full house.
Then, just past 10 a.m., he appeared.
Wearing an Air Force blue jersey with his name stamped across the back, Lewis, the “Fired Up Chief,” streamed into the room. Applause erupted as shouts pierced through the excitement-charged air.
After a few words of gratitude for the organizers of the event, Lewis got down to business. He opened with a brief snapshot of his time in the militaryall 28 years of itand defined what kept him going.
“I’m full of something you call pride, enthusiasm and passion’,” the chief said, with a triumphant grin. “When you put it all together, that stands for P.E.P.”
This P.E.P.’ not only fired up Lewis, but the Airmen in attendance seemed to feel his positivity. The room broke out in applause when he paused for a breath. Airmen hooted their appreciation. Approval was roared.
The chief highlighted his time at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, and how he had to learn to stay positive. After a battle with paralysis and briefly losing his ability to speak, the retired chief has become more determined than ever to see Airmen succeed. Retiring in 2012 from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, he said he continues to push for the welfare, morale and success of Airmen everywhere he goes.
“It’s all about perspective,” he said. “One day, one of youis going to be faced with a significant, emotional event. And when that happens, you can either respond with a bad attitude or a good attitude. Your attitude is going to determine your progress.”
Often, Lewis faces questions regarding his retirement and how it is spent. Friends ask why he’s still motivating young Airmen instead of finding some new topic of ardor, he explained.
“When people don’t understand your passion, they think you’re crazy,” he said, before reminding those gathered that passion and dreams are the only things worth having. “It all starts with a dream.”
Staff Sgt. Ana Escobar Willacey, 60th Medical Support Squadron, described the chief’s visit as “awe-inspiring.” She wishes to one day do something similar and hopes to encourage her fellow Airmen in the meantime.
“To have that motivationeven after 28 yearsthat’s something special,” Escobar Willacey said.
Airman 1st Class Rico Polk, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems apprentice, felt similarly. The chief’s dedication and investment encouraged Polk to make the most of his time in the Air Force and remain positive.
“He had already done 28 years, and the fact that he’s still here and he still feels the love…that’s something to see,” Polk said.
As the Fired Up Chief’ rally came to a close, everyone stood to their feet.
When the claps and whoops faded enough for his words to be heard, Lewis implored Airmen one final time to realize their goals and go after them.
“I want to encourage you to dream big, dream super big. I want your dreams so bigthey’ll probably say you’re stupid,” he said.