SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --
The journey from airman basic to chief master sergeant is a long one, filled with many lessons – just ask Gregory Artis Jr., the only Schriever Airman selected for the January chief master sergeant promotion cycle.
Senior Master Sgt. Artis, who serves as the 50th Space Communications Squadron superintendent of special mission systems flight, said he was more than surprised when he found out about his selection.
“It felt surreal, I thought, ‘did they add up the score right?”’ he laughed. “I was very surprised. Then I received the certificate of promotion and was like ‘this is real, this is happening.’”
Those who work with Artis said his selection wasn’t shocking.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Master Sgt. Jeremy O’Keeffe, 50th SCS superintendent of quality assurance who has known Artis for years. “He’s a straight forward down-to-earth kind of guy, and he works hard every day.”
Artis did not anticipate spending more than 19 years serving in the Air Force when he originally enlisted at the age of 17.
“I was going to do my four and get out,” he said. “I was about to be 18, I really didn’t want to go to college right away, but I didn’t want to lay around in my parent’s house either. Being an Army brat, I was used to military life. I thought it (joining the Air Force) was a no-brainer; you can get paid and have a place to stay.”
As a minor, he needed his parents to sign a waiver for him to enlist.
“My father was all for it, but my mother was a little hesitant,” he said. “She was the one who signed the waiver though. I graduated high school and three weeks later I was in basic.”
He had many fond memories of basic military training, including celebrating his 18th birthday.
“It was a ‘celebration,’” Artis laughed. “I had to serve cake to everyone. Basic was a good time.”
Artis served at various stations through his years, including Kelley Field Annex, Texas, Creech Air Force Base, Nevada and Osan Air Base, South Korea, saying he has accumulated interesting experiences along the way.
“In Osan, we would get stuck in the middle of the street with a five-ton in a small alley,” he said. “It was fun setting up Entry Control Points, and rolling out to set up communications. I have friendships and bonds that have lasted over time.”
Going from one base to the next, Artis widened his outlook on the world, and his perception of the Air Force.
“They (duty stations) were all great in their respective ways,” Artis said. “It wasn’t the bases as much as being a part of different commands and different numbered Air Forces, understanding what each brings to the fight.”
However, it was during his time working at Distributed Ground Station 1, which analyzed surveillance data from drones at Langley AFB, Virginia, where he learned what it truly means to serve and the impact he makes.
“At Langley, we would process data and give it to warfighters on the ground, analyzing things like changes in the ground structures, what it is and what it could be,” he said.
His unit would brief service members about to deploy on the services they provide and how they can keep them safe.
“Some of them would come back from their deployments and thank us because they didn’t see an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and we did," he said. "When I first joined, I didn’t understand the scope and magnitude of what the Air Force brings to the fight. Supporting individuals on the ground made things real."
His coworkers look forward to his continued success with the 50th SCS.
“The squadron will continue to thrive under his tutelage,” O’Keeffe said. “He’s the leader that you want; carefree and charismatic, but when it’s time to get to work, it’s time to get to work.”
Artis shared advice he would give to Airmen who are inspiring to find success in the Air Force – regardless of making chief or not.
“When you get up and you put on your uniform, try to be a better Airman than you were the day before,” he said. “If something comes up that seems like extra work or something you don’t really want to do, see it as an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”
Artis added advice he would give to his past self.
“I would tell him to buckle up,” he said. “It’s going to be a ride, and it isn’t over yet.”