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Family Bonds


“You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in our own eyes.”

This quote by Walter Schirra Sr. was about his own son. SMSgt. Dooley and his son, too, share that bond.

SMSgt. Robert D. Dooley’s, 5th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, retirement ceremony was held Feb. 21, 2020 at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. It was officiated by his son, Capt. Robert A. Dooley, 34th Bomb Squadron Rockwell B-1 Lancer weapons systems officer from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.

SMSgt. Dooley said he wanted to retire quietly and without a ceremony, but his son and fellow Airman wouldn’t allow that to happen.

“My son told me to hang on long enough for him to retire me,” said SMSgt Dooley quietly, with a smile.

First sergeants, who can be identified by the diamond device that they wear on the center of their rank insignia, are senior noncommissioned officers who serve as a liaison between commanders and their units.

Though it is a demanding job, his role as a first sergeant has left an impression on many, but none more so than his son.

“There are many approaches to leadership,” Capt. Dooley said. “As a first sergeant, he made a lasting impact on the lives of many Airmen. He never stopped caring or leading. He will always be the standard in which all first sergeants will be charged to meet.”

SMSgt. Dooley even had the rare opportunity to be deployed with his son.

“It was my favorite memory,” he reminisced. “ I remember him picking me up from the airport and we just hung out. It’s so rare to deploy with family members.”  

Though SMSgt. Dooley retired, Capt. Dooley is continuing a family tradition of military service.

“The family legacy of military service goes back four generations,” said Capt. Dooley. “My great-great-grandfather served in the Army during World War I. My great-grandfather served in the Army during World War II. My grandfather served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. My father served in the Air Force during the Iraq and Afghanistan war.”

Capt. Dooley said he joined the Air Force to not only serve his country, but to follow in his dad’s footsteps.

“He is my hero,” he said. “I was extremely proud to have the opportunity to preside over my father’s retirement ceremony. It was truly an honor.”

SMSgt. Dooley said retiring felt bittersweet, but he enjoyed his time in the Air Force.

“Retiring is hard,” SMSgt. Dooley added. “It’s very difficult trying to figure out what to do. I loved what I did, I loved being an Airman. My family is very proud of my endeavors and my lineage and I know my son will be passing the torch when it’s time.”