MIDDLETOWN, Pa. --
Chief Master Sgt. Bill Yingling, the command chief master sergeant for the 193rd Special Operations Wing, has served in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard for 30 years.
The Gettysburg native recently sat down for an interview to share some insight.
What brought you into the military?
I went to West Virginia University. I was there for three semesters and I never got above a 2.0, so the school suspended me for a semester. I came home, hopped down on the old man’s couch thinking I can kick back and relax for a semester until they got me back in school.
My father was an O-6 colonel in the reserves, and he wasn’t going to let me sit around. He said you’re joining the military. He brought me up here because it was the closest place to our hometown. I came up and swore in and said, “I’m doing six years, that’s it, and then I’m out of here.” Yeah, and now what, year 30?
What has kept you in the military?
Initially I got a full time job in that first six-year window. It was the job that kind of kept me around. I left here in 2005 to go out and start a family business, but I stayed in as a traditional [Guardsman]. I just couldn’t give it up. You know, I just kept on going and staying in and then I deployed to Afghanistan for a RAT team, which was a redeployment team. When I got back from that I was re-energized. I saw the bigger picture on what was going on and everything. I’m like, “I’m going to stay on for as long as they’ll have me.”
I was here full time from 1990 to 2005. I was 15 years as a technician over in the LRS [193rd Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron]. I did a year or two over in maintenance and then I left and became a traditional. About four years ago I came back in as a temp. I came back in for a 30-day tour basically, and here I am. I’m still here.
Can you explain how a failure either directly set you up for success or provided you with a lesson learned that indirectly set you up for success later?
I would say I wasn’t prepared for college and so I lacked a lot of discipline. That failure allowed me to get into the military and kind of learn my way, learn my path.
The military can be very stressful at times. When things start to get overwhelming, do you have a routine or a way to help refresh your mind and get refocused?
I think when you’re younger and you’re coming in and you’re just doing the job, it’s not as stressful. But I think as you move up in rank, that’s when the stress level increases. Now it’s not just you coming in and doing your job, it’s you watching out for other people, and they need to do their job.
So what I started doing about six or seven years ago, I started really getting involved in exercising. I found out that was my stress relief. When I could go out and I could run a couple miles or I could go to the gym and lift weights, man I had a whole different perspective when I got done after doing those workouts. So yeah I think exercising has been critical.
Do you have a “go-to” workout? If so, what is it?
I really don’t. I have this app on my phone, it’s called BodySpace, it’s from Bodybuilding.com. And so whenever I need a pick me up, when I’m going over to the gym and I’m putting in my time but not really putting in the effort, I go to that thing and it’s usually about an 8 or 12-week program. That kind of gets me going.
What is your main focus/motivation to move forward and better yourself?
What I’ve learned sitting in this position is that, it’s the resources you get that kind of moves you forward. So because I’m connecting with people down in AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command] and the command chief down there, with Chief Anderson at NGB [National Guard Bureau], I’m privy to more resources and more ability to get knowledge in, which lets me do the overall picture and push it out to the chiefs.
It’s the networking at this position I think, that kind of allows me to be a step ahead of the other chiefs and push out what we need to do and what direction we need to go.
What advice would you give to a young Airman that is just joining the military or looking to progress in their career?
You have got to empower yourself to get involved here. You can join and you can come in and you can do your weekend a month and your 15 days and you can go home and live your life. But if you can connect with the people here, and if you get involved with other activities beyond just that job, you’ll get a whole lot more out this place. I think that’s what kind of happened with me. You build friendships and you build relationships, next thing you know you deploy with somebody and it becomes family. That’s where the connections come from. You’ve got to engage yourself.
What advice would you tell them to ignore?
Don’t be scared, don’t fear the military. It’s here to give them some benefits they wouldn’t have gotten on the outside. The military gets a bad rap from people that don’t understand the military. Don’t listen to them, listen to the people who have been in and the experiences that they’ve learned from it.
Is there a book that has influenced you that you would recommend? Why?
There is one when I got back into working out, it’s called “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”. It talks about four elements that you need to be successful when you are taking care of yourself. The one that really stuck out to me was the mental side of things. It said that you mentally have to be prepared to fix yourself and to work on yourself. That just stuck with me. It had about 35 pages of just talking about that mental aspect. That was my big take away from it.
Do you have any obscure or unusual interests or hobbies that you enjoy?
A hobby… what do I do?
I don’t think I have one anymore. I like to golf but that’s not crazy. I am doing my fourth Tough Mudder coming up. I’ve done three so far in the last six years. I’m doing one every other year.
In the past five years, what is something that you changed your mind/opinion about? Did it make you implement a change in your lifestyle, if so, how?
Five years ago today I would have been a traditional running the furniture store we have back home and now today I sit in as command chief doing this full time. I’d say once I came back in and pulled the 30-day tour, I kind of said “Hey, you have a little bit more to give here, why don’t you come back in and see what you can do.” Year after year it’s just kind of grown, the level of commitment has kind of grown as I’ve been in.
Do you have a random knowledge bomb to part with?
The biggest surprise, being around here for 30 years, for 25 of those years I was in my squadron doing my squadron stuff. I didn’t realize the scope of everything else beyond that squadron, like NGB and AFSOC, and the avenues and opportunities and everything that is available beyond just what’s going on here in Middletown. That to me is kind of eye opening. You always want to be able to experience a TDY or go on a trip, or take a course about leadership. It just opens up a whole new avenue and you make new connections with other folks and the Guard.