Inspector General deputy chief at WPAFB celebrates 24 years of service

Initially Lt. Col. Michelle Stringer thought she would serve in the Air Force for four years to gain experience so she could work for the FBI or the U.S. Marshals Service.

That was 24 years and two months ago.

Stringer serves as deputy chief of Inspections Branch A, Inspector General, Air Force Materiel Command. She has been stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base since July 2016.

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When those first four years were up, she was overseas, she said, enjoying what she was doing and the people she was helping, so she kept going.

“I really enjoy watching young Airmen come into the service, setting and reaching their goals; that’s what kept me in the Air Force,” Stringer said. “I’m a defender, that’s been my career path the entire time. I love what we do for installations in the U.S. and across the world.”

In her current job, she travels to installations to inspect Security Forces but said she does not do that alone; she has the assistance, suggestions and brain power of staff members at AFMC.

“My job is to ensure wings at AFMC bases are compliant and following what guidance has been set forth by the Department of Defense and the Air Force,” Stringer said, adding that she enjoys traveling, meeting new people and discovering different organizations.

Her career began with a job as a security police flight commander at Minot AFB, North Dakota. She has served in England and been deployed multiple times, including to Iraq.

Stringer recalls her six-month deployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after the Dayton Peace Accords were signed. She admits she wasn’t fully aware of the toll the war had taken on that region until she saw its devastation firsthand.

“When you’re driving down the road – especially in Sarajevo – and you see nothing but cemeteries everywhere, that really hits home that it is real,” Stringer said.

Now, shortly before the end of her career, she said she is finally where she has wanted to be stationed so she could work at a special program office. She continues to be amazed that she works within yards of where the accords were signed.

“It still blows my mind,” Stringer said. “I have served my country for 24 years, and it has been quite the privilege to do so.”

Part of her thinks she wants to work in the federal government following her retirement, but the private sector also has allure. She toys with the notion of doing something very different from her current career, but it must call for interaction with people.

Stringer also is thinking of literally “passing the baton” to a family member joining the military. The family’s metal running baton dates to the 1940s and has been passed to most of her extended relations on both sides.

“I have a couple of nephews and a niece; we’ll see if they decide to join so I can pass it along to them,” she said. “It’s in our blood.”

She considers her career highlights to be when she was invited into a mosque by an Iraqi colonel to observe a special ceremony, and the opportunity to be a commander.

“I have been trusted to take care of one of our most precious resources – our people – three times,” Stringer said. “I have been fortunate.”

But her experiences have shown her the need to keep developing as a person, too.

“I’ve had to learn to be patient; I’m an impatient person,” Stringer said. “I’ve had to step back and breathe. Also, listening to people – not just hearing them, but listening – is a skill I’ve needed as an inspector. Our job is to make installations better by doing due diligence and doing our homework.”

Stringer’s thoughts on Black History Month

Multiple minorities have made tremendous contributions to the U.S., she said.

“It’s great that we highlight those folks and give them the recognition they deserve; otherwise those truths tend to get buried, and bringing such awareness is a good thing.”

Stringer said she wants to challenge people to read articles on minority individuals’ achievements this month.

“Pick one of those people and learn all you can about them. Then look at the big picture: What would life be like if that individual had not made those contributions or sacrifices?” she said.

Advice for young Airmen

The military is at the forefront of innovation, Stringer said, and so many careers young people aspire to can be pursued while serving. The opportunities are here, she said.

For first-term Airmen, she encourages them to set goals, find a mentor, read everything they can and be the best they can be during that short period of time.

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