Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the July 6 print edition of the Star-Argosy. Subscribe by calling 316-540-0500.
By Sam Jack
Master Sergeant Steven Tracy, a Milan native, recently retired from the Air Force, capping a career that spanned more than 30 years, including 20 years with the 931st Civil Engineer Squadron (931st CES), headquartered at McConnell Air Force Base.
“Leaving is kind of bittersweet, because I’m going to miss seeing everybody,” Tracy said. “But, you know, with getting older and everything, it was a good time to get out of it.”
Tracy enlisted in the Air Force in May 1986. His first year was mostly taken up with training, while his next three were spent loading bombs, missiles and 30-millimeter projectiles on the A-10 Warthog aircraft at Eilsen Air Force Base in Alaska. In June 1990, he was transferred to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., where he was certified to load nuclear weapons on the FB-111 Aardvark.
In fall 1990, Tracy’s 27th Tactical Fighter Wing loaded weapons and prepared to deploy to the Middle East in support of the Gulf War, though the deployment never took place.
In June 1991, his first active duty stint ended. He was released under stop-loss and returned home to Milan. But military life drew him back in. After a few months of civilian life, he enlisted in the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Fighter Wing at McConnell Air Force Base.
“I wasn’t really planning on going into the (National) Guard or reserves, but I just kind of missed it – missed the camaraderie. So I joined the guard, and next thing you know, it’s 20-odd years later,” Tracy said.
He returned to his former job of aircraft armament systems specialist, but worked on the F16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. In 1994, the B1B Lancer bomber replaced the F16, and the 184th Fighter Wing became the 184th Bomb Group.
Tracy retrained to load munitions on the B1B and was promoted to staff sergeant. In 1996, he went to Jakarta, Indonesia, to help demonstrate the B1B’s capabilities at an international air show.
Later that year, Tracy transferred to the Air Force Reserve at McConnell and joined the 931st CES.
In early 2002, a few months after marrying his wife Darcelle, he was deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. His role was to supervise the base’s power plant.
“That was shortly after 9/11, and they were sending a lot of troops over to the Middle East to support the war effort there,” Tracy said. “We were basically setting up a new base to house troops. The air base was sending a lot of missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In 2004, he was deployed again, this time to Al Dhafra Air Force Base, United Arab Emirates. He again operated the power plant and additionally worked to maintain aircraft arresting systems.
His final overseas deployment began in 2007, when he was sent to Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, as the non-commissioned officer in charge of aircraft arresting systems and contracting office technical representative.
Every fighter base needs an aircraft arresting system, according to Tracy.
“If a plane comes back with battle damage and doesn’t have brakes or has something wrong, then it can save the aircraft and the pilot, hopefully without crashing the plane,” he said.
Tracy was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his work with that branch in Kirkuk. The medal is awarded to service members who “distinguished themselves by an act of heroic, extraordinary achievement, or meritorious service,” according to the Army.
Tracy now lives in Nashville, Kan., and works in the wind power industry.