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Exceptional Leader Spotlight: Master Sgt. Richard Duken

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, earns the 31st Fighter Wing First Sergeant of the Year. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, earns the 31st Fighter Wing First Sergeant of the Year. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, pose for a picture. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, poses for a picture. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, hugs his daughter. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron from Aviano Air Base, Italy, hugs his daughter. (Courtesy Photo)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron, poses for a photo next to a Military Razor vehicle at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 25, 2019. The 57th Rescue Squadron leads, organizes, trains and equips Guardian Angel weapons system and combat support teams to conduct day and night personnel recovery operations in combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron, poses for a photo next to a Military Razor vehicle at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 25, 2019. The 57th Rescue Squadron leads, organizes, trains and equips Guardian Angel weapons system and combat support teams to conduct day and night personnel recovery operations in combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever).

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy. --

Some of us don’t go where the path leads, but instead blaze our own trail.

When U.S. Airmen choose to be the difference, they are making themselves, the Wing, and the Air Force better.

“I joined the Air Force 21 years ago,” said Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron. “I was a child from an Army sergeant major and I knew that I was going to serve in the military as long as I can remember. The Air Force was different and I wanted to do something different than what my grandfather, stepfather and brother did, the Air Force felt right.”

The U.S. Air Force provides many opportunities that some could only dream of. With experiences, accomplishments often follow, something Duken learned firsthand.

Duken’s first great career accomplishment was being promoted to master sergeant at his squadron holiday party through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program. Both his daughter and family where there, and the moment felt surreal, said Duken.

Then, he was selected to represent the Air Force at the National Football League kickoff concert in 2003.

“I was able to announce Britney Spears on national TV in Washington D.C. in front of thousands of people,” said Duken.

Thirdly, Duken was selected as a first sergeant. Although the opportunity came later in his career, it led him to his greatest career accomplishment.

“Being a first sergeant has always been a dream of mine,” said Duken. “This has been the best three years of my career.  It also earned me the 31st Fighter Wing First Sergeant of the Year, which is clearly one of the greatest and most proud moments of my career.”

All these experiences led Duken to be the exceptional leader he is today.

Duken leaves us with some words of advice…“Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today,” said Duken. “Your members are going to fail, but it’s vital you are there for them and help them recover and get past those mistakes. Leaders aren’t perfect, you will make mistakes, but don’t be fake or blame anyone for the failure. Just accept it and move on.”