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A Veteran's Journey from Jet Engine Mechanic to Command Chief

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

When Chief Master Sgt. Teresa Renson enlisted in the Air Force with an open general career field on September 17, 1985, she didn't know it would lead her to be a jet engine mechanic and later serve as a wing command chief in the 168th Wing. 

Renson served in the United States Air Force and Alaska Air National Guard before retiring after 36 years. 

"I enjoyed working on the jet engines," said Renson. "My whole career has been a journey. I was in JROTC in high school, and I didn't know what I wanted to do in my life."

Renson shares one of the reasons she joined, "Being a part of being something bigger than myself – I know that sounds cliché, but It was true." 

Shortly after basic training, she arrived at George Air Force Base in California and served there from 1986 until 1989, working on all aspects of jet engines. She was the second female to be selected to work in the test cell where they tested the engines.

After serving in California, she took a break until 1993, when she joined the Alaska Air National Guard six weeks after her second child was born. 
Now, in the AKANG, she served again in the jet shop, maintenance operations control center, maintenance plans, and scheduling. She later served in operations and became an alert aircraft dispatcher and tanker scheduler.

"In 2002, I was offered the position of the Wing commander secretary," said Renson. "I did that until 2006 when I was selected as the ground safety manager."  

In 2013, she was selected as the Force Support Flight Superintendent; in 2017, she was selected as the Mission Support Group Superintendent; and in 2019, she was selected as the wing command chief.

When asked about her favorite part of all the jobs, she said, "Out of every career field, I gained something valuable. I can't say there was one I preferred over the other. Every time I stepped out of my comfort zone, I felt it helped me to grow." 

Renson shared a memorable moment in active duty and said, " I really like working on engines. We did depo-level type maintenance then." 

"I would say the support side of the house allowed me to help take care of people," said Renson. "Which is what I'm passionate about. As a command chief, that's the job description, and that's the part I love."

"I joined for the job and stayed for the people," said Renson.

Renson said her time in the Air Force allowed her opportunities.

"When you join the military, it doesn't matter what your background is; you are on the equal playing field with everybody else – How well you do, it's all on you and – all about you and not about circumstances."

"That's the part I loved about it. While we may not start with the same life circumstances, when you go to basic training, you are all on the same playing field."

"I hate it when people say life is full of choices, and you should have made different choices. We don't all have the same circumstances or the same opportunities that are presented to us. I felt like when I went to basic training, we all started at the same level, and how well we did was all about us and was about our choices. And that's one of the things I liked about it." 

Renson said a highlight of her career was building relationships in the wing, base, and community.

 "Knowing that I made a difference in somebody else's career, I'm hoping that I was able to help people advance in their careers or provide advice. And they would enjoy what they do as much as I have."

Choosing to step out of her comfort zone allowed Renson to grow.

"I don't like getting out in front of people and speaking. That is one of the things I feared most, but I did it because I knew I would get better at it. I think challenging yourself is important."

June of 1993 was her first drill at the Wing.

"I felt a longing to continue to serve, but with two small children, I didn't want to do it in a full-time capacity at the time."

Renson said the people in the 168th Wing have become her family over the past 29 years.