RAF MILDENHALL, England --
The fast-paced action of the Joint Base Lewis-McCord flightline, like that of any other in the U.S. Air Force, is an area of constant movement. Airmen zoom around nonstop to provide critical maintenance and support to the jets entrusted in their care.
However, for one fresh-faced young Airman, the events to unfold on this particular day would create a lasting impact and open his eyes to a vastly different world he never knew existed until that point.
Master Sgt. Michael Granato, 752nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, began his journey in the Pacific Northwest, amongst the firs and red cedars, and one interaction with his own “shirt” implanted the idea of following the same path.
“I had no idea I had been awarded a certificate for hard work within my unit,” Granato explained. “So since my first sergeant was the person who presented it to me, I offered to take the long walk to his office, but he said, ‘No, I’ll come see you.’
“Now remember, this man, just like every other ‘shirt’ out there, is extremely busy - but that little act of kindness to come to my work center stayed with me. I know it seems so insignificant to most people, but it made a difference to me.”
This was the event Granato believes cemented the idea of becoming a first sergeant himself, and he wanted to create those memories for those he was responsible for.
“I have the ability to have an enormous impact on people,” Granato said. “Coming from a maintenance background, I was never able to see what came from my work, other than aircraft soaring in the sky. As a first sergeant, I can see the change immediately when I perk somebody up and help them in life.”
However, before Granato was able to influence young Airmen, his career at JBLM continued for 11.5 years.
“Working in avionics was such a great experience, and I did all a staff sergeant could do,” Granato stated. “Once I was given a leadership role in quality assurance, I was able to hold people accountable and ensure people’s integrity was in line.”
This aspect of Granato’s primary duty and military experience laid the foundation for the values he would make sure each and every one of his future troops would live by as well.
“Every new person who walks into my office must understand that if we can’t trust them to work on planes, they’re not going to work on planes,” Granato said. “Every new airman that comes into our unit knows that we will do everything in our power to ensure he/she is properly trained. “You can’t lie, take shortcuts – honesty is the most important thing in my line of work.”
Granato’s first assignment as a first sergeant was with the 3rd Operations Support Squadron at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Following this role, he joined the RAF Mildenhall family and was initially assigned to be the 100th Communications Squadron ‘shirt.’
“This was an incredible experience, because I had the fortune of deploying with this group and performing my duties in an austere environment,” Granato stated.
After arriving back in England and serving some more time with the 100th CS, he moved transitioned to the 752nd SOAMXS, where he currently sits.
“The disciplinary stuff, especially when it’s somebody who up to that point has been stellar, is often the most frustrating part,” Granato explained. “But when you pick them up, help them dust themselves off and proudly watch their comeback, you would be able to see why I enjoy what I do.”
Even so, Granato never forgets to pass along words of advice and confidence from his many years in the US Air Force.
“Travel!” Granato exclaimed. “It took me three quarters of my career to get overseas, but some of my Airmen are lucky enough to have this be their first assignment. I pass on all the resources I can and hope they make the right decisions to experience everything Europe has to offer.”
Granato himself is an avid traveler, and along with experiencing different cultures with his family, he is able to revitalize himself by taking what he uses at work while at home.
“I’ve learned to become a much more patient person,” Granato said. “Whether somebody’s having a hard time, waiting on a response or someone is just not telling you the truth, this job requires you to react only when you can.
“Most people aren’t much different from each other, no matter what their rank is. We all go through the same problems, from the youngest Airman to the base commander.”
Being able to have a positive influence on others has been Granato’s motivation since putting on the diamond, and rest assured, if he has success, others will be coming along on the ride.
“I always ask people that when they look behind themselves and see awards and decorations, I ask them to think to themselves, ‘Did I take anybody on the journey with me?’ and hopefully the answer is yes.”