ADF chief retires after 26 years of service

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Aerospace Data Facility's Senior Enlisted Leader retired after a storied 26-year career Nov. 3. 

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Houdek has been guiding hundreds of joint-service enlisted members, and focusing on improving their quality of life since July 2005.

During his reign here, he strengthened the partnership between the ADF and the 460th Space Wing and opened a chaplain's office enabling the ADF workforce to have access to spiritual guidance and counseling, said Master Sgt. Erik Stratton, 566th Information Operations Squadron flight chief.

"(He) made a difference in the lives of many," Sergeant Stratton said. "(He) will always be respected and remembered as a friend, a leader and a chief."

Chief Houdek attributed his success mostly to a positive attitude in a commentary dated Oct. 6 on the Buckley Air Force Base Web site. He also said integrity, being approachable, admitting when you're wrong, being responsive and continual improvement makes a good leader.

His quiet, confident leadership is based on strong values instilled in him as a child. He grew up in Parma, Ohio, in a patriotic home.

"I remember participating in, or observing, many different parades in the Cleveland area, and we always displayed the American flag at our home," the chief said.

Combining deep-rooted patriotism with his love of aviation, it was almost pre-destined that the young man would begin his path to becoming a chief master sergeant. In November 1980, he began his Air Force journey when he entered active duty at Lackland AFB in San Antonio as an airborne cryptologic linguist.

In the first two years of Chief Houdek's career, he attended language training at the Defense Language Institute/Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif., Cryptologic Skills Training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Wash.

It was during his training in Monterey that Col. Melody, the Defense Language Institute commandant, invited the then-Airman 1st Class Houdek and his future wife, then-Airman Andrea "Andi" Kane, to his home for Thanksgiving dinner. That career-shaping experience showed him the Air Force was more than just service to one's country -- it was also a family, one motto he exuded throughout his career.

"When we arrived at Buckley, the Houdek's sponsored a Top-3 barbecue at their home, giving us the first impression of our new Air Force family," Sergeant Stratton said. "They took the time to visit with everyone and walked each guest to their cars as they departed. It was these kinds of simple, thoughtful acts that made a difference to my family and to every other family whose lives they touched."

After the chief completed his technical training, he received orders for his first assignment to the 6990th Electronic Security Group at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.

Chief Houdek continued on to assignments at the Headquarters of Electronic Security Command at Kelly AFB, Texas; the 6903rd Electronic Security Squadron at Osan AB, Korea; Headquarters of Air Force Intelligence Command at Kelly; the 303rd Intelligence Squadron at Osan; the National Security Agency at Fort George G. Meade, Md.; the 390th Intelligence Squadron at Kadena; a Defense Human Intelligence Service Detachment at Ramstein AB, Germany; and the 566th Information Operations Squadron at Buckley, Colo.