EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
A smile can tell you a lot about a person and it’s the first thing you’ll notice about Greg Roach. His is everlasting and always present, like the Alaskan summer sun. For almost a year now, I’ve been running into Greg around Amber Hall. Every time I see him our interaction always goes the same. He flashes his smile, nods his head and says, “How are you doing?”
Even though our interactions are brief, I always find myself with a sense of renewed energy after exchanging pleasantries with him.
But it wasn’t until recently, as Greg and I were both standing in the parking lot and looking for a reason to enjoy the above freezing temperatures just a little while longer, that we engaged in a prolonged conversation. I learned he was far removed from being an Alaska rookie.
I asked him if it was his first winter up here. He laughed. “I’ve been here for twenty-three years now,” he said. “My wife and I drove up here in 1995 and we just fell in love with it.”
Greg’s answer for staying at Eielson after his retirement had everything to do with his initial impression of the base and more importantly the people on it.
“I was assigned to work in the jet engine mechanic shop and those guys just made me feel right at home. We’d do all sorts of things together on the weekend; it was a family-friendly atmosphere right away, and the remoteness of Alaska forces that upon people, almost like a proving ground.”
I’m no longer surprised to find people that have chosen to put roots down in Alaska after leaving the military—I’ve met others with similar stories—but what makes Greg so beneficial to the Eielson community is the welcoming attitude he exudes, much like the people in the jet engine shop who welcomed him upon his arrival.
Greg’s actions, as small as they might seem, ripple around the base like water from pebbles skipping across a lake, influencing everyone he comes into contact with and even those he’ll never meet.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Maj. Michael Harvey, Commander of the 354th Comptroller Squadron, agrees.
“He’s a kindhearted guy that goes way beyond his job, whether that’s pulling someone out of the snow or taking on an extra duties. As long as I’ve known him, I’ve never heard the word ‘no’ out of his mouth.”
And in my personal estimation, it’s people like Greg that make Eielson such an enjoyable destination to PCS to. Active duty personnel come and go, but government civilians are the ones who are largely responsible for ensuring continuity and a healthy culture exist with the constant influx of personnel. For new Airmen, the encounters they have with tenured people makes an indelible impression, like handprints in wet concrete, for their overall experience. And a bad first impression can be a tough thing to forget.
But Greg (and many of his civilian counterparts) embody a positive culture by sharing their enthusiasm for what they enjoy about Alaska. Beyond this, Greg has certainly showed me that even with the smallest gestures of kindness we all have the potential to brighten a person’s day and make someone’s time at Eielson just a little bit better.