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Entering the jet stream

Tech. Sgt. Waddy

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gayla Waddy, 18th Wing Professional Military Education instructor, poses in front of an F-4C Phantom static display Oct. 20, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Waddy’s grandfather, Maj. Bobby Huggins, flew a RF-4C Phantom during the Vietnam War. Huggins' service inspired Waddy to join the Air Force and carry on military traditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Waddy

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gayla Waddy, 18th Wing Professional Military Education instructor, visits an F-4C Phantom static display Oct. 20, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. She visited the display to pay homage to her grandfather and F-4 pilot, Maj. Huggins, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Waddy

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gayla Waddy, 18th Wing Professional Military Education instructor, reaches for her grandfather, Maj. Bobby Huggins Oct. 20, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Huggins flew an RF-4C Phantom during the Vietnam War, and was killed in action over Vietnam in 1970. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Waddy

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gayla Waddy, 18th Wing Professional Military Education instructor, presents a portrait of her grandfather, Maj. Bobby Huggins, Oct. 20, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Huggins was an RF-4C Phantom pilot during the Vietnam War, and was killed in action over Vietnam in 1970. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Duty.

Honor.

Respect.

Sacrifice.

These words may ring true to every member and family who has or is currently serving in the armed forces. It is these words that can drive men and women to be the best at what they do. It is those who have served before that laid the path for those currently serving.

The reasons why people serve and what drives them to be more can often be lost. For U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gayla Waddy, 18th Wing Professional Military Education instructor, her “why” starts with her grandfather – Bobby Huggins.

Maj. Huggins served as a pilot in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He was shot down while flying an RF-4C Phantom during a reconnaissance mission over South Vietnam in June 1970. Prominent medals Huggins earned throughout his career included the National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Star and Air Force Commendation MedalHe was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

“I grew up in a household that had strong Air Force ties,” Waddy said. “My mother was 13 when her father (Huggins) passed away.”
Waddy’s mother moved the family back into her childhood home as a tie to Huggins.

“My grandfather was a huge driving force for why I joined, not only to hopefully drive his legacy – but to make my mother, and my family proud,” she said.

Waddy graduated from high school early and enlisted immediately at the age of 17. The influence from her grandfather has been the influence for the excellence demonstrated thus far in her career, and her leadership abilities have been on display since she joined.

“I was a red rope in technical school, but it seemed as if nobody wanted to listen to a 17-year-old girl,” Waddy said. “Until recently, I’ve always been the youngest of my peers. I do get to retire at 37 though, so that’s pretty cool,” she laughed.

Waddy’s started a new chapter in her Air Force career in January 2017 – she began work as a PME instructor at Kadena AB.

PME instructors are one of the largest influences on the future leaders of the Air Force, teaching Airman Leadership School and Non-Commissioned Officer Academy classes for future non-commissioned officers.

“The tour as a PME instructor at Kadena is three years,” Waddy said. “My role is to groom and teach future leaders of the Air Force.”

Waddy hopes to be an influence on others in the same way that her grandfather inspired her.

“I get to see leaders being born,” Waddy said. “Teaching future leaders that will one day make impacts on the Air Force, molding the future leaders of this great Air Force, my Air Force and my grandfather’s Air Force. That is the most rewarding part of my job.”