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From airman basic to colonel, Greenwood retires

CONCORD, N.H. -- Brig. General Deborah Carter (then Colonel), administers the oath of office to Col. Rick Greenwood during his promotion ceremony at the Joint Forces Headquarters drill hall in Concord, March 25, 2009.  (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Vezeau/Released)

CONCORD, N.H. -- Brig. Gen. Deborah Carter (then Colonel), administers the oath of office to Col. Rick Greenwood during his promotion ceremony at the Joint Forces Headquarters drill hall in Concord, March 25, 2009. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Vezeau/Released)

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- With the Vietnam draft lottery denying student deferments, a young Rick Greenwood studying at the University of New Hampshire decided during the summer of 1972 to enlist in the Air Force. He was unaware it was the beginning of a career of service that would take him from an airman basic on active duty, to a colonel in the New Hampshire Air National Guard.

Nearly 40-years later, recently retired Greenwood remembers well the first time he ever flew on an airplane when he went to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

"I'd never even seen a jet before taking my first airplane ride to San Antonio, Texas for basic training," said Greenwood.

It was soon after being assigned to Pease Air Force Base in January 1973 as a crew chief on the FB-111A aircraft with the 509th Bomb Wing, that he was selected for the Airmen's Education and Commissioning Program (AECP).

"I was able to complete my degree from UNH after being selected for AECP," continued Greenwood. "However, as the Vietnam War was winding down, the need for active duty officers wound down, as well."

As a result, Greenwood was released from active and was assigned to the Air Force Re-serves at Westover Air Force Base, Mass. to fulfill his remaining commitment.

"It was during this timeframe that I discovered a well-kept secret - the New Hampshire Air National Guard," Greenwood said. "I applied and was accepted for a position in January 1976 to the flight line as an assistant crew chief on the newly assigned KC-135A aircraft."

Since then, the Air National Guard has been home to Greenwood.

"It's where I grew up; where I've met most of my closest friends; where I've learned the meaning of selfless service; where opportunities were provided to travel and experience people and cultures that most can only imagine," he said. "I‟ve been tested under the most stressful of conditions."

Having served in several positions over his career, it's difficult to choose just one that stands out above all, the colonel admits.

"As a crew chief I loved the excitement and the camaraderie," Greenwood said. "As an intelligence officer, I learned more about the mission of the New Hampshire Air National Guard than I ever thought possible."

Greenwood was also selected as the first Air Force officer to command the Joint Counter Narco-terrorism Task Force.

"This position was really foreign to me but I grew to love it," he said. "We interfaced with federal, state and local law enforcement on a daily basis on drug intervention."

"The people assigned to this task force were some of the most dedicated, intelligent, mission-driven people I've ever served with," continued Greenwood.

The opportunity he had to work with non-governmental organizations was the perfect way to close out nearly 40 years of service.

"Working with the NGOs was a real transformation," said Greenwood. "To discover the passion and desire they have to care for our service members was one of the most heart-felt discoveries of my career."

Now as Greenwood looks back on a successful career, he leaves this advice for Airmen serving today.

"Challenge yourself always. If you become complacent, make a change, even if it's uncomfortable," he said. "Seek mentors from all levels and places and listen to them. Position yourself for success."

The Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran now wonders what's next and where can he makes his biggest impact. He has to look no further than where started.

"I'd like to find a way, utilizing all my experiences, to work to ensure that our forgotten veterans from the Vietnam era are provided the care, treatment and entitlements they so richly deserve," said Greenwood.

Greenwood shares the same sentiment a young soldier who recently returned from Iraq said to him when he asked why he serves.

"Why wouldn't I? When someone needs help, why wouldn't I answer the call?"

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