Outsized impact: Lebel retires after 35 years of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kayla White
  • 157th air Refueling Wing
The members of Pease Air National Guard Base are like key parts of a complex machine, each enduring a life cycle of wear and tear as they serve a crucial function. 

Chief Master Sgt. Anthony M. Lebel, the vehicle fleet manager of the 157th Mission Support Group here, is no exception. 

He sits across the table, calloused hands in front of him, one of which is wrapped in a blue cast. After years of maintaining and repairing vehicles, the cartilage in both of Lebel’s thumbs has worn away. His hand seems to be a visual representation of life as a mechanic.

“It’s dirty and it’s nasty,” said Lebel, his voice a gravelly baritone. “It’s hot in the summertime and cold in the winter. There’s always something that needs to be done. It is not an easy career field.”

Lebel’s career began in the active-duty Air Force in 1983. He attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and technical training at Chute AFB, Illinois, to become a firetruck mechanic.

He came to Pease in December of 1990, as it was transitioning from an active-duty base to the Guard base that it is today.

Lebel took over as the vehicle fleet manager in 2005. It has been his responsibility to ensure that the more than 170 Wing vehicles are safe and serviceable.

“What we do impacts almost every group on base,” said Lebel. 

He described how crucial functioning plows are to the flight line during the heavy New England winters. Then he listed other vehicles his shop services, including those of the base fire department as well as the security forces squadron.

Managing the vehicle maintenance mission for the last 13 years has given Lebel the opportunity to leave a lasting impact on more than just the wheeled machines in the parking lots.

Master Sgt. Christian M. Swegles, a mission generation vehicular equipment mechanic assigned to the 157th MSG, met Lebel as a new airman in 2006, when he interviewed for a job in the vehicle maintenance shop.

“He was the new superintendent and I was an A1C,” said Swegles. “He was an intimidating guy.”

Swegles has learned many things from Lebel, but he says one stands out in particular.

“He was always fighting for what he believed in and sticking to his guns,” said Swegles. “He’d be here every day, advocating for people in the shop. It made you feel like you had someone in your corner.”

When asked about the impact he hoped he has had on the Wing, Lebel responded with confidence.

“I can honestly say that I’ve been a Chief and not just an E-9,” he said. “And there’s a difference.”

Surrounded by friends and family from across the country, as well as generations of Wingmen, Lebel celebrated his more than triple-decade career during his retirement ceremony on August 11, 2018.

One of Lebel’s former commanders, Col. Christopher W. Hurley, the commander of the 102nd MSG, Vermont Air National Guard, spoke during his retirement ceremony.

“He possesses an unmatched work ethic and unwavering commitment to his airmen and the mission’s success,” said Hurley. “He also has an unrelenting determination, although his wife might call this stubbornness, that has allowed him to persevere when others would have long since given up. In short, the Chief’s outsized character permeates the many facets of his leadership style and has enabled him to achieve success where others thought it impossible.”

Hurley then turned to address Lebel directly.

“As you retire and pass the baton to the next generation of airmen, know that your legacy endures in the many contributions you’ve made to advance vehicle maintenance operations,” he said. “It endures in the mission readiness that you sustained to keep our country safe and, most importantly, it endures in the airmen whom you have trained and mentored who will become the future leaders of the Guard.”