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12th Air Force command chief retires, but won’t fade away in the memories of his American Airmen

U.S. Air Force retired, Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, presents Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), command chief, with an award during the Chief’s retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

U.S. Air Force retired, Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, presents Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), command chief, with an award during the Chief’s retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) command chief, receives his retirement pin from his wife, Teresa, at during his retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) command chief, receives his retirement pin from his wife, Teresa, at during his retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), command chief, makes a ceremonial toast during his retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Harold Clark, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), command chief, makes a ceremonial toast during his retirement ceremony on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 18, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths/Released)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Surrounded by family, friends, colleagues, former commanders and an entire Air Force hangar full of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Airmen and Soldiers, 12th Air Force (Air Force Southern) Command Chief Master Sgt. Harold "Layton" Clark retired from active duty after 31 years of service during a ceremony here Nov. 18.

"This great chief made a difference in the lives of thousands, no make that tens of thousands of Airmen," said retired Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears, a former 12th Air Force commander who officiated the retirement ceremony.

Spears added that it had been an honor to have Clark as a wingman and that today only symbolized the close of one chapter in the book of the Clark's life journey.

"He is truly one in a million, and the epitome of an American Airman," Spears said.

Clark entered basic training in June 1980 as an Ohio Air National Guard Security Forces member. Upon graduation from technical training, he was assigned to the 121st Tactical Fighter Wing, Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio. Clark enlisted in the active duty Air Force on Nov. 1, 1982. Since then he has served in a broad range of Senior Enlisted Leadership positions ranging from Security Forces Manager, Air Combat Command Inspector General Superintendent, Mission Support Group Superintendent, and as Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq and the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

In his current role as the senior enlisted leader, he advises the commander on all issues regarding the health, welfare, morale, and effective utilization of assigned enlisted personnel. Twelfth Air Force ensures the readiness of 10 active duty wings and one direct reporting unit for contingency operations, oversees 20 gained Air Reserve Component units, and employs 17 airframes totaling more than 840 combat aircraft with more than 62,000 Airmen. As the air and space component to U.S. Southern Command, Air Forces Southern conduct security cooperation and provide air, space and cyberspace capabilities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

During the retirement ceremony, Clark was presented with the Legion of Merit and his security forces badge was retired. Clark has served as a role model for more than 31 years and has worn his security forces badge pinned to his chest each and every day. So, to honor the man who stood with the badge and to honor the badge, Clark's security forces badge number C-4145 was retired with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2012.

"We all knew that this day would come, and you all thought that I would cry," Clark said with a smile. "I'm not going to cry, but the emotion that I am feeling is certainly capped off with the fact that I have friends, family, commanders and warriors around me."

After cracking a few of his trademark Chuck Norris jokes, Clark went on the thank Tucson community leaders in the audience for contributing to the health, welfare and morale of all service members stationed here.

"To our community leaders, thank you for your outstanding work and making sure that our Airmen know that their community loves them," Clark said. "We truly couldn't do what we do without your support."

Clark closed the ceremony by addressing the men in women in uniform that he's served with during his 31-year career. He told that crowd that people always come first and to never forget to have compassion for others.

"All of you live by a code of conduct, as set of core values, and you're all galvanized by the Airman's Creed," Clark said. "You're all part of one team, and I have no problems with the caliber of team I am leaving."

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