WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla. --
In an official ceremony surrounded by his family – both by blood and by service – Col. Douglas D. Hayworth, 137th Special Operations Wing (137th SOW) vice commander, retired within a historical hangar at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City, May 4, 2019.
The seating of the ceremony was almost equally filled by the uniforms of current service members as it was civilian attire worn by retired veterans and their families.
“There are a lot of people here today that are in uniform or have worn the uniform because of you,” said Master Sgt. Caroline Essex, one of Hayworth’s two daughters. After asking everyone in the hangar who had been impacted by her father’s service to stand, and after nearly everyone in and out of uniform stood to show their support, she continued, “But, something even more powerful than that is that there are three of us here today who get to call you ‘dad.’”
Hayworth has two daughters and one son who have followed in his footsteps to serve in the military, two of whom have served or are serving with the 137th SOW.
However, his legacy of dedication does not stop there. After 33 years of service to the same wing, Hayworth said he had served alongside 18 different chiefs from various squadrons around base.
Though he outlasted most military members’ years serving on the base, Hayworth started his career like many – as an airman first class.
“I was 27 [years old] and realized one day that I hadn’t done one thing to serve my country…” recalled Hayworth. “I had not done a thing … I realized that if I didn’t do something, my window of opportunity was going to slip [away].”
In 1986, he enlisted as an administrative specialist with the 205th Engineering and Installation Squadron here. Two years later, he was commissioned through the Academy of Military Science at Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1988, he moved into the maintenance group where he eventually became commander in 2011.
There he found his extended family.
“For those who choose to serve … it’s a calling and a very fulfilling and satisfying part of your life,” he said. “In some part of that career you realize: ‘Hey, I’m part of a family.’”
Hayworth has been serving as the 137th SOW vice commander since January of 2016 and has worked full-time since 1995. He also received the Legion of Merit for his service to the Wing and its Airmen.
“We thank you for your dedication,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Ryan, Assistant Adjutant General - Air, Oklahoma National Guard. “We thank you for your sacrifice. It is probably one we and the people of this great state and nation will never be able to repay.”
Though a lot has changed about the Air National Guard and the Wing during his more than three-decade career, Hayworth said that one thing stays constant – the people.
"Long term mission success is directly related to how well you have invested yourself into the personal success of others,” Hayworth finished. “That’s what gets you through … So family (including fellow service members), thank you for your service and your friendship.”
Hayworth officially joined the thousands of retired service members of United States Air Force, May 1, 2019, and relinquished his position as vice wing commander to Col. Rick L. Mutchler, who (like Hayworth) comes to the position as the former 137th Mission Support Group Commander.