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40 years all over Goodfellow

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, young people entering the workforce today will likely change jobs seven to 10 times during their careers.

If you take that into account, it looks like Wendell Johnson, a motor vehicle operator with the 17th Logistics Readiness
Squadron Transportation Flight, has been ahead of the curve. In his 40 yearsof government service to Goodfellow, he's worked all over base.

"I've seen Airmen come and go and commanders come and go," the soft-spoken San Angelo native mused. "I've had an excellent career," he adds, laughter in his eyes. Mr. Johnson worked at several grocery stores and served two years in the Army as an aircraft airframe sheet metal repairman before accepting a job at the commissary there in 1967.

When the opportunity presented itself, he moved over to vehicle operations in the transportation flight. After five years, he moved to the 17th Services Division's Auto Hobby Shop, then eventually to the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron, back to the Auto Hobby Shop and then back to the 17 CES.

Knowing that his time in CE was up and needing just one more year to retire, he moved back to his favorite job: vehicle operations. After just a year there, he turned 55 and had his 30 years in. Though he was now qualified for retirement, he didn't feel like calling it quits just yet.

"I figured I could give Uncle Sam a few more years," Mr. Johnson said, chuckling. "I didn't realize it was going to be 10 more, but here I am all the same."

Mr. Johnson said his job is to make sure students get to medical appointments, both on base and at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as well as doing bus tours for downtown dignitaries and assisting the morale, welfare and recreation programs for the base populace.

"I enjoy driving," he said, "and busses are my favorite vehicle to drive." Mr. Johnson added that one of the most memorable parts of his job was meeting all sorts of people. Two people in particular stuck in his mind.

The first was Gen. Lloyd Newton, then-commander of Air Education and Training Command, who presented Mr. Johnson with a coin during a visit to Goodfellow. The second was Maj. Gen. Norma Brown, who Mr. Johnson described as "a top-notch commander - a people's commander."

In addition to his job, Mr. Johnson said he was happy being in charge of the Black History Month Gospel Service at the base chapel. He is also a member of the African-American Heritage Committee and the Black Employment Committee, and is active in his church.

Mr. Johnson is retiring in April, and he said he looks forward to continuing with his volunteer work on the board of an adult daycare program. He said he might also volunteer as a substitute bus driver. Retirement will also give Mr. Johnson more time to spend with Sammie, his wife of 39 years, and their children Tracy, Stacy and Christina, who live in the local area. He will even have time to take his grandson, Samuel, fishing when he gets old enough.

As he looked back at his career, Mr. Johnson had a simple reason for staying with Goodfellow for 40 years.

"Why change when it's not necessary?" he quipped. "The job has been great, the pay has been great and I've had great supervisors." He added that he is often at work even when he doesn't feel well - when he called in sick this past year, it surprised many of his co-workers, many of whom had never known him to do so.

"My deal is this," Mr. Johnson said. "I'm paid to do a job, so I do it to the best of my ability, and part of that is making sure to be here to do that job even if I don't want to be."

As he prepares to leave for retirement, Mr. Johnson said he's satisfied with the record he'll leave behind. "I take pride in my work," he said, "and the record shows that."