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Great supervisors and leaders are made, not born

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Editor's note: This is the first in a series of four articles on the Journey to Chief, what it takes to become a chief master sergeant and their experiences in their careers.

"If my peers from high school could see me now, they would be shocked," said Chief Master Sgt. Tracey House, 28th Medical Group superintendent. "I was a punk."

Growing up in Medford, New Jersey, and being the youngest of three girls, House wanted to do something different than her sisters - she wanted independence and to get out of her small town.

"I was not a very good student," House said. "I barely managed to graduate high school and I knew college was not something I wanted to pursue."

A local recruiter was relentless and kept reaching out to House to get her to join the Air Force.

"I am not from a military family, so I had no clue what military life was all about," House said. "I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I figured I would meet with the recruiter and check out what he had to offer."

In October 1989, House began U.S. Air Force basic military training and upon completion started her career as a health services management technician in Germany.

"I knew I needed some structure in my life and I thought six weeks of military training was something I could do," House said. "My family was so proud of me when I joined. They thought that I was going to end up in some kind of trouble the way I was going."

Four years sped by, and with everything going so well, she decided to re-enlist. However, it was in Airman Leadership School when she began to discover what being in the military really meant.

"I'll admit that I used to be one of those who would hide out during retreat," House said. "One day, one of my ALS instructors had a group of us stay behind for retreat to explain to us its importance. It was then that I began to realize that I was a part of something bigger than myself."

House has been surrounded by great mentors and leadership throughout her career, helping her reach new heights.

"I've learned so much from all my supervisors and commanders," House said. "Taking care of people and being a resource for Airmen is so vital to our mission but also to making it a great organization to be a part of."

House had never intended to become a Chief, or at least that was what she thought early in her career.  She planned to serve 20 years and retire, hopefully, as a master sergeant.

"I didn't go through ...the Air Force with my eyes set on making it to the rank of chief," House said. "I just focused on staying out of trouble, paying attention, learning my job to the best of my ability."

House added that she always took advantage of each opportunity presented to her, believing that if she kept to her work ethic and belief in the organization, she would succeed.

"These stripes aren't mine, they're the Airmen's," House said. "I'm another resource for Airmen."