RED HORSE Chief closes four decades of military service

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Rossi, vehicle maintenance superintendent with the 201st RED HORSE, Detachment 1 here, is preparing to bring to a close his military career after serving with the Pennsylvania National Guard for 39 years.

Rossi, a Philadelphia native, joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 1976 with the 108th Combat Support Hospital, fresh out of high school, in the vehicle maintenance field serving at the South Hampton Road Armory in Philadelphia.

"The Guard allowed me to be able to help take care of my family in a way the active duty could not. I couldn't just go away for 4 years and leave my obligations of home," said Rossi. "Initially, I was in a combat support unit with the Honest John [missiles] mission. We went through big change in personnel as we transitioned to the 108th medical mission."

Rossi dedicated 21 years with the Army National Guard, becoming a full-time technician there in 1986. He later transferred to the Pennsylvania Air National guard here in 1997, taking a full-time position with the 111th Fighter Wing as the vehicle maintenance superintendent.

"Chief Rossi was a key leader to the startup success of the newly formed RED HORSE unit here," Col. Michael Regan, 111th Mission Support commander here, said to 100-member formation of during a retirement ceremony held Dec. 6.

Rossi was clearly moved as he stood before the Airman of the 201st RED HORSE bidding his thanks and farewells.

"One of my proudest contributions during my years of service was helping to develop a life-saving turret prototype while I was deployed," said Rossi. "As a result of one of our Airmen [Airman 1st Class Leebernard Chavis] being killed by a sniper's round in 2006 in Afghanistan, we formed a Tiger Team to come up with a more protective turret design for on top of the Humvees [high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle].
"The new turret concept [later called the Chavis Turret] was fabricated from scraps taken from junk vehicles and random parts." 
He said he had the pleasure of helping Airman choose the right path, possibly from a self-destructive direction - rewards like those that make it all worth the work.

"We're very fortunate to have the caliber of eager young people here who want to come in, do the work necessary to succeed and serve their country," he said proudly. Anybody that comes in here, raises their hand to serve our country gets my vote of confidence."

Rossi continued by acknowledging the service his family provided during his time in uniform.

"I'm a luck guy," said Rossi speaking about his wife and fellow veteran, Ellen. "All of the drill weekends, the extra hours, the deployments - through it all, I've had her unending support."

Rossi and his wife already have plans for what he's going to do with his new free time.
"We plan on spending much more time on our 33-foot cabin cruiser we bought a couple years back, enjoying our summers," he said referencing his upcoming retirement at the end of December. "I'm most looking forward to not scheduling my life around drill weekends. We all sacrifice by missing out on family events that inevitably fall on a drill weekend."

Rossi's finished his address by offering advice to the younger NCOs for continued success.

"Reading is fundamental; if you don't know it, read up on it and know your responsibilities," he said. "For the more senior NCOs, look to your Airmen and develop them to take your place. Be a good listener and constant mentor." 

"It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve. There are so many wonderful people associated with this organization. I have put my feet in so many different places. The grass is always greener somewhere else, but it's no greener anywhere else than right here," Rossi said in closing.