By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — For most there are only a handful of people who create such a big impression that you can recall when and where you met them. Robert Gaylor, former chief master sergeant of the Air Force, is one of those people.
The jovial, well-spoken and passionate Gaylor shared his story and his secrets to success with Airmen at a base all-call Oct. 28 in the auditorium. “I can’t stand here and address the current issues of today, but if you’re looking for someone who can talk about the Air Force almost from day one, I’m the guy,” he said.
Born in 1930, Gaylor grew up during the depression and was an adolescent during World War II. A self-proclaimed walking encyclopedia of Air Force history, Gaylor joined the Air Force Sept. 8, 1948, almost exactly one year after the Air Force became its own branch of the military.
He credits a majority of his success to his wife, Thelma Gaylor. “She is my strength, my hero, my critic, my friend, she’s my everything. I’m going to tell you that no person does things by themselves,” he said.
Gaylor became the fifth CMSAF in 1977. Luck, he said, has very little to do with his journey in life. “I was not born with a magic spoon in my mouth. You have to make investments (now) that may not pay off until (later) but if you don’t make the investments, nothing happens,” he said.
There are four words, he said, that answer the question, “How does somebody advance?”
Aptitude is the first word. “Aptitude defines what you’re able to do,” Gaylor said. “Don’t ever stop learning. I’m 81 and I learn something every day.”
The second word is motivation. “You control motivation. You could sit here all day with your knowledge and brain power, but until you agree to activate it in a motivated way it will fall short,” he said.
Attitude is the third word, he said. “Attitude is the definition of how well you will do. Some people just don’t have the right attitude.”
The first three words, Gaylor said, are within everyone’s control. “We all like power. I’m suggesting the greatest power you and I have is to control our own aptitude, motivation and attitude,” he said.
The fourth word is opportunity. “Opportunity is so subtle. You never know when it’s going to happen or where it’s going to come from,” he said. “Where you come into play is aptitude, motivation and attitude, and then opportunities will happen.”
It’s important to take control of aptitude, motivation and attitude now, Gaylor said. “Wouldn’t it be a shame if your door opened and you weren’t ready? The door may never open again.”
Gaylor has had many achievements in life, but he doesn’t share his story to brag. Gaylor said he shares his story to let Airmen know there is a future CMSAF out there, and it could be anyone.
“Your name is waiting to be called,” he said. “Usually it happens when you least expect it.”