Graves honors the heritage of enlisted Airmen

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, GUNTER ANNEX, Ala. -- Since its creation in 1947, Americans have enlisted into the Air Force for various meaningful reasons. For some, joining the Air Force is a family tradition, for others it served as an opportunity to serve their country and honor its heritage.

For Chief Master Sgt. Fred Graves the idea of becoming an Airman circled around his desire to work hard. His efforts have demonstrated his commitment to the Air Force and set an example for other Airmen.

Graves has served nearly 28 years in the Air Force, and is currently the director of the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute. He credits his passion for hard work to his mother.

"My greatest influence would have to be my mother because of her tremendous work ethic," Graves said. "I can remember one instance as a kid, when my mother, a single parent and nurse, was ill, and instead of taking the day off to get some rest and recover, she gave herself a shot of penicillin and then proceeded to go to work.

"She taught me that it's important to do whatever it takes to get a job done and to get it done right the first time," Graves added.

Prior to his assignment at the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, Graves served as an Air Mobility Command combat search and rescue C-130 loadmaster and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan several times.

"We have been in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than any other conflict, and I hope to use my experience in these deployed environments to help document the great contributions of Airmen in these two theatres" Graves said.

Graves said that he really enjoys working at EHRI, mainly because he likes meeting new people.

"My job gives me the privilege to meet lots of people on a daily basis. I have been told that I'm a people person as well," Graves said jokingly.

He leads a team of four staff members and many volunteers who manage the 11,000 square-foot building that was initially built in the 1940s.

Graves and his staff maintain every display in the Heritage Hall. Displays are built from scratch and, according to Graves, "they all require a lot of research, patience gathering artifacts and commitment to ensuring they are as close to 100 percent accurate as possible."

Along with maintaining the Heritage Hall, Graves and his staff are responsible for the history and heritage chapters of the "USAF Professional Development Guide." The guide is used by all enlisted and contains insight into numerous subject areas such as leadership, concepts and application, doctrine, history, standards and military customs.

Although he has many responsibilities at the Heritage Hall, Graves said that he is able to find time for family.

"I have six children and a wonderful wife," Graves said. "My wife actually teaches at the Senior NCO Academy, and she and my daughter are both in the Air Force. My daughter is stationed at Lackland Air Force Base and is a mental health technician."

Graves is proud to be a part of the Air Force team.

"I have absolutely enjoyed my 28 years in the military, and although I will be retiring at 30 years, I will always be very proud of my many years of service in the United States military," he said.