MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Remembering his start as an airman basic 35 years ago, Brig. Gen. Edward F. Crowell, mobilization assistant to the Air University commander, fondly remembers a career that saw five armed conflicts and admits he'll miss the "people" most of all as he approaches his Feb. 4 retirement date.
"You build up great relationships in the military with outstanding people, the finest I've met anywhere," General Crowell said. "It's my greatest fear on leaving that these relationships may not continue."
General Crowell's retirement ceremony was held at the LeMay Center on Jan. 23. Gen. Stephen R. Lorenz, commander of Air Education and Training Command and former commander of Air University, presided over the event.
Growing up in a small community near Phoenix City, Ala., General Crowell said his boyhood dream was to one day serve in the military as he admired his World War II veteran grandfather and uncle who served in Korea. Shortly after high school, General Crowell enlisted into the Air Force Reserve's then 908th Tactical Airlift Group at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Finishing basic training and technical school in maintenance, General Crowell started a stint with the 908th that would last more than 24 years. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Alabama State University, General Crowell was selected for pilot training and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1974. However, with the post-Vietnam aviation drawdown, General Crowell was diverted to the emerging social actions career field in the 908th.
In 1981, then-908th commander Col. Robert S. Martin appointed General Crowell to his first command as commander of the 908th Mobility Support Flight.
"Colonel Martin was definitely a key mentor for me. He said he saw something in me that could lead to greater accomplishments," General Crowell said.
For the next 10 years, General Crowell was groomed to eventually take command of the largest support squadron in the 908th. In 1992, he assumed command of the 25th Aerial Port Squadron, a critical unit charged with safely loading and unloading the wing's C-130 aircraft. Insisting to attend parachute rigger school, General Crowell proudly wore the rigger badge he received on graduating.
"I never asked anyone to do something I wouldn't do," he said.
One of his most memorable moments came from the 25th APS. General Crowell said it was in the dead of winter 1994 when his unit was deployed to Westover Air Force Base, Mass., and then on to Griffith AFB, N.Y., for an Operational Readiness Exercise. With a crew planned for unloading one wing compliment of eight C-130s, General Crowell found the work was doubled when a second wing showed up. The 16 C-130s were tasked to move the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, noted for oversized cargo and equipment.
Short-handed and working around the clock in sub-zero weather, ice, and snow for three days, the 25th APS pulled off a "super-human effort" as all mission requirements and departure times were met, General Crowell said. As his exhausted members were leaving on the last aircraft, General Crowell said a chemical exercise then required his unit to don the cumbersome chemical warfare suit and mask for the ride home. General Crowell said he is still amazed at the effort and attitude of all his team in one of the most difficult experiences of his career.
When selected for colonel in 1998, General Crowell left the 908th for the 22nd Air Force at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., to become director of aerial port operations. Three years later, he became the Inspector General for 22nd AF. In 2002, General Crowell was appointed the mobilization assistant to the commander of 2nd Air Force, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. In June of 2004, he pinned on his current rank, and in April of 2005, he assumed his current position as mobilization assistant to the commander of Air University.
In his civilian pursuits, General Crowell climbed the corporate ladder with the former Blount International Company, serving as director of human resources. He is currently a senior vice president with VT Miltope in Montgomery, Ala.
General Crowell said he has no regrets. He said his greatest feeling of accomplishment came when he saw his unit members excel in their endeavors.
He added that training offered in the Air Force is the best found anywhere. He said the outstanding training was evident as he experienced the armed conflicts in Iraq (both in 1991 and currently), Haiti, Panama, and Bosnia.
When asked about any plans after retirement, General Crowell said he was going to take a vacation with his family.
"I have always used my vacation time to participate in the Air Force Reserve," he said. Noting family support was key to his success, General Crowell said it was definitely time for a family vacation.
The general also plans to remain active in the community. He is a past chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and serves on several boards to include the Central YMCA, the Central Alabama Opportunities Industrialization Center and the Montgomery Area Council on Aging.
Still an avid four-mile-a-day runner, General Crowell said his philosophy has always been that life comes with choices.
"You can chose to either be upbeat or a grump." General Crowell said he has always chosen to be upbeat.
"If you can't do anything about it, you don't need to worry about it. Just carve out a way ahead and press on," he said.