News: In it for the long run: Chief Max White
Story by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
PORTLAND, Ore. - Max White first came to Eugene, Ore., in 1972, to chase an Olympic dream having qualified for the Olympic track and field trials in the marathon. Though White did not make the USA team and compete in Munich, West Germany, he would eventually move to the west coast. White made his home in Oregon and created countless other successes including serving his country and community with the Oregon National Guard.
“I felt a deep sense of patriotism in my early 30s and joined the Oregon Army Guard, going to boot camp at age 34 with most recruits being 17- and 18-year-olds,” White said. As he retires from the Air National Guard as a chief master sergeant, it is almost impossible to summarize the array of his entire resume; athlete, airman, educator, coach, mentor - the list is endless.
“What Chief White has done for his attitude toward fitness and staying motivated has been a real asset to the entire organization,” said Col. Mike Stencel, 142nd Fighter Wing commander. “Anyone who ever spent any time with Max could feel his passion for the entire force, and his perpetual optimism; he embodied it."
White’s positive attitude toward any task motivated other airmen as well, directly working with others allowed him to mentor and encourage younger troops to be fit or learn and contribute to the entire Oregon Air Guard.
“There was no part of my career that was more of a high point then being a first sergeant as it was rewarding to help people grow and learn," White said.
With the operations tempo and citizen airmen being deployed to various parts of the world, Oregon guardsmen like White have routinely stepped up, giving of their own personal time to lead by example.
“He has this unique ability to listen to people, give positive feedback and understand their needs,” said retired 142nd Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Erin Applegate. It was Applegate that handed over the job of command chief to White in February of 2009 and worked with Command Chief Master Sgt. White on a variety of leadership issues for over a dozen years. They directly worked with youth campers that came to Camp Rosenbaum each year. Often if some of the campers donated shoes did not fit or they could not find the right size, he would head down to the local Nike outlet and pay for them himself. “Max literally would give you the shirt off his back," said Applegate.
When he was not in uniform as a traditional guardsman, he was either teaching mathematics or coaching students at South Albany High School. Having spent more than 30 years as a school teacher and athletic coach, his ability to take his mentorship skills from the Guard to the class room at times was often seamless. “My students were highly enthusiastic about my participation in the guard and often my experiences in one influenced the other," said White.
White also served as the human resources adviser for the 142nd Fighter Wing for six years. That experience allowed him to help members understand their differences while serving side by side in their military mission. “It has always been important to me that people be given their proper respect,” said White. “So diversity continues to be a positive factor in aspect to my service to the Guard."
“I’ve never seen myself as being elite, I honestly feel inside that I have respect for everyone I work with whether they wear stripes or they are officers,” said White.
As White crosses the finish line of his Air National Guard career, those that gathered for his retirement ceremony reflected on his varied accomplishments and the passion he brought to every endeavor.
Brig. Gen. Steven Gregg said, “Command Chief White took on challenges as a traditional guardsman that in the past was performed by full-time command chiefs."
As White addressed those attending his retirement ceremony he acknowledged his own personal conviction to friends and family, “I find strength with the knowledge that Stephen Covey describe from Greek philosophy; ethos, pathos, logos; living one’s ethical nature and living with personal credibility," White said.
The 142nd Fighter Wing and the Oregon National Guard will miss his energy and optimism on drill weekends or whenever a tough challenge arises. “Max has been a huge cheerleader, passionate about everything," Col. Stencel said. “He gets out there to find out what everyone; from the newest airmen to myself is thinking, feeling and doing."