Chief Melissa Walters: Run your own race

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tori Schultz
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
(This feature is part of a "Women's History Month" series highlighting female Airmen stationed at MacDill.)

"A four year commitment seemed reasonable, and I thought it would go by fast...and it sure did," exclaimed Chief Master Sgt. Melissa Walters, superintendent of the 6th Medical Operations Squadron. "At my three year point, I was having fun and couldn't imagine giving it up!"

Walters is a dedicated and committed Airman in every aspect of her Air Force career. She made chief in 20 years and is always seeking out opportunities to help her grow and pass along her knowledge. 

In July 1996, at the age of 17, this Boston, Massachusetts, native enlisted in the Air Force out of Woodbridge, Virginia. She said the primary reason she joined was to become self-sufficient and not rely on others. Walters also appreciated the education and travel benefits that came along with her independence.

"I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career and wanted the opportunity to be exposed to different experiences before going to college and locking in a career path," she said.

Walters asked for experience and adventure, and she got it.

At the beginning of her military career, Walters was stationed 7,535 miles from home at Kadena Air Base, Japan, as an aeromedical apprentice. When her time was up at Kadena, Walters made her way back to the states to Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, and now calls MacDill AFB home.

The urge for more experience pushed Walters out of her career field and into special duties like wing protocol, NCO academy Instructor and career assistance advisor.

Through these special duties, Walters was able to do what she loves: help Airmen.

"I love being able to help Airmen--I like being able to share information, knowledge, experiences and seeing a "lightbulb" go off above their heads," explained Walters. "Sometimes it's not what we say but how we say it that sparks something in them."

Walters continues to grab every opportunity the Air Force has to offer her, and strives to have her actions speak louder than her words.

"The Air Force has provided me opportunities to serve in capacities I never thought of, and in doing so, taught me more about my own strengths and weaknesses," she said. "It has allowed me to serve for, and with, amazing leaders who encouraged me along the way."

As the Career Assistance Advisor for MacDill, Walters impacted thousands of Airmen through professional enhancement courses and always being available to Airmen of any rank.

"Chief Walters has given me advice on dealing with leadership as an Airman, ways to make events I was heading up successful, and paths to take to set up my career successfully," said Staff Sgt. Jared Metcalfe, network analyst with the 6th Medical Support Squadron. "Some leaders tend to give good advice, but Chief Walter's would give advice, and she made sure to follow up and see if I was actually going through with it."

One piece of advice she gives to all Airmen is 'run your own race.'

"This is something I personally learned when I started to do triathlons a couple years ago and found it relates to careers and life in general," she said." People will deploy, permanently change station (PCS), and promote at different rates. Your journey is your own, and as long as you enjoy what you do, you should 'keep the pace." 

Walters will PCS in April to Sheppard AFB, Texas, where she will continue helping Airmen in any and all situations she can.