EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, FORT SMITH, Ark. --
James W. Rivers, 123rd Intelligence Squadron superintendent, was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant, in a ceremony held here Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Chief Master Sergeant is the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force and is held by less than 1 percent of the enlisted total force.
Lt. Col. Gregory Johnson, commander of the 288th Operations Support Squadron, presided over the ceremony and recited words that fellow squadron, group, wing and family members felt embodied Rivers’ character traits.
“Dedicated, engaged, leader, devoted, steadfast, fatherly, trustworthy, and dependable,” quoted Johnson. “James, you’ve always led by example, I’ve seen you mentor troops on both personal and professional matters. You’re one of the finest senior non-commissioned officers I’ve seen in 24 years of Air Force service.
A native of Crossett, Arkansas, Rivers enlisted in the Air Force in July, 1986. He first served as an electronic intelligence operations specialist on active duty with the 544th Defensive Intelligence Squadron in Offutt AFB, Nebraska. He returned to Arkansas in 1991 to join the Air National Guard (ANG) as an intelligence analyst with the 123rd Intelligence Squadron. As a traditional guardsman, he deployed for annual training to Howard AFB Panama, Langley AFB, Beale AFB, Wright-Patterson AFB and also served with the California ANG counter-drug program over a 13-year period while working full-time as a process engineer at Kimberly-Clark Corp.
While serving as an imagery systems maintenance technician from 1992 to 2005, Rivers earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering Technology and a Master of Operations Management. After cross-training into the Geospatial Analyst career field in 2005, he deployed to Columbia in 2006 in support of Operation Noble Eagle. He was an integral part in starting up Digital Ground Station – Arkansas operations in July 2006 and was selected for an Exceptional Performer promotion to Senior Master Sgt. in 2007.
Rivers was selected as the Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCO) of the Year for the 123rd in 2007 and 2009. In 2008, he was named the Guardsman of the Year for the state of Arkansas and was chosen as the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group (ISRG) Reserve SNCO of the Year in 2009.
In 2011, he became the NCO in charge (NCOIC) for the Operations Support Flight where he was responsible for Training, Weapons and Tactics, Mission Scheduling and Mission Management. He accepted a full-time Active Guard/Reserve position after eight years of voluntary mobilizations and overseeing over 800 ISR and combat support missions.
“I could not be more proud to be the chief of the 123rd Intelligence squadron,” Rivers addressed the audience. “As a chief, my charge is to develop airmen, NCO’s and young officers that are the future of our organization and to work with the senior leaders to lay out a strategic plan that sets them up for success.”
Rivers reflected on the point of his career where his focus shifted from what he could gain himself to what he can give in the way of knowledge and experience to others.
“I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be, my education goals were personal and helped make me the best Senior NCO I could be and help my squadron, my group and wing be the best they could be.” Rivers said.