He led a remarkable life

I finally met A Man for All Seasons. But unlike Sir Thomas More, he didn’t lose his head at the end of the play. Chris Whitmire, Transylvania native, US Air Force Academy Distinguished Graduate, USAF Colonel, state legislator, and now an American Airlines Captain has, to say the least, led a remarkable life. From the time he entered the Air Force Academy in 1986 he’s had an amazing ride. Let me discuss both the smooth and turbulent air.

Smooth air first. 1986-1990, he attended the Air Force Academy and was commissioned Second Lieutenant. Upon graduation he was selected as a Guggenheim Scholar for a graduate program at Columbia University.

us military standing next to helicopter

Col. J. Chris Whitmire (2nd from right), an Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer to North Carolina, with fellow officers, in front of a Blackhawk helicopter

After this he attended Air Force pilot training, graduating in 1992 was assigned to fly the KC-135 aircraft, and later the Air Force’s executive jet, the C-21.

Deployed multiple times around the world

Asked to describe his service, Chris said, “I flew the KC-135 as a pilot, aircraft commander, and instructor for two operational assignments (Plattsburgh AFB and Fairchild AFB). I deployed multiple times around the world, particularly to the Middle East (Southwest Asia), for combat, combat support, and other operational post-1991 Gulf War air refueling missions. Additionally, I flew humanitarian and priority cargo missions during this time.

“While assigned to the C-21, I served as the interim commander of my unit, aircraft commander, instructor, and evaluator. My job was to ensure the safe transport of medical patients, military brass, members of the US Congress, and President Gerald Ford.”

Transferred to the Air Force Reserve

 After ten years’ active duty he transferred to the Air Force Reserve where he remained until 2018 and retired as a Colonel. In the meantime, during his Reserve duty, he applied and was accepted to the flight department of American Airlines in 2001. “Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts.” Starting on the bottom floor as a B-727 Flight Engineer, he was furloughed shortly after 9/11. When recalled in 2002, he was assigned as a First Officer in the Fokker 100 and then the MD-80.

But in 2003 he was furloughed again, this time until 2015. Recalled at the end of that year, he was assigned as a First Officer in the B-737 and then the Airbus 320. He now resides in the captain’s seat of that aircraft.

When Whitmire signed on with the Reserves, he was assigned to the Homeland Security Office in the Air Force’s Counterproliferation Center until 2009. What the heck is that? Simply put, that office is “responsible for providing education and research on weapons of mass destruction threats and appropriate countermeasures to those threats.” (Air University publication, March 2009)

During his time in that office, he served on the faculty of the Air War College and developed the curriculum for the Master’s Program in Homeland Security-Homeland Defense. He was also a primary instructor in that doctrinal area.

Additionally, he authored/edited/contributed to five Homeland Security and Counterterrorism publications all of which remain relevant today (two of which were acted on by the US Congress to address security issues). At the completion of this assignment, he was attached until he retired to USNORTHCOM as a liaison for natural disasters and special security events.

America’s 2014 National Security Eagle Award

Col. J. Chris Whitmire, Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer and member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, received ACT! for America’s 2014 National Security Eagle Award for “exemplary courage and statesmanship in defense of America’s security and freedoms” (September 12, 2014).

In 2012 Whitmire was elected to represent District 113 in the NC House of Representatives. Serving until 2016, he authored or contributed significantly to legislation ranging from the state budget, to securing our natural resources, to Military, Security and Veteran’s Affairs, to agriculture, to the education and protection of North Carolina’s children.

Col Chris Whitmire

Col. J. Chris Whitmire

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine

In everything important to us he was in the front row. And in recognition of his many legislative accomplishments he was awarded the state’s highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
But if truth be known, I believe Chris would tell you that his highest honor is his faith, his wife Shannon and their family, and the gratitude of the people whom he served.

I asked what his brightest moment was professionally. His response was what you’d expect of a modest man. “It was the people I worked with and their dedication and loyalty to our great nation and defending our freedom Their drive, their commitment and their knowledge are the best we could ever hope for. The country is fortunate to have them and I was fortunate to be associated with them.”

Governor Pat McCrory for the signing of the Brass to Class Act

Whitmire (far right) is pictured with North Carolina lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory (seated) for the signing of the Brass to Class Act, which streamlined the process for veterans to transition into classrooms as teachers by ensuring they are granted credit for their relevant experience, certifications, training, and leadership roles. Whitmire was a major sponsor of the 2013 bill.

In the interview with Chris Whitmire, I gleaned the following of what made him who he is. His parents, who molded him with honor and gave him a strong work ethic. The military, which strengthened his resolve, provided discipline and gave him purpose. Serving the people, which gave him the pride he shows daily for Transylvania’s and North Carolina’ s citizens. So as I started out, I come back to this: Chris Whitmire truly is A Man for All Seasons.

What’s next in store for Chris? I don’t think a long vacation is in his future. If we’re fortunate he’ll run to serve the people of North Carolina again. Like Sir Thomas More, a man of conscience.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’”
Isaiah 6:8-13

 Top Photo: Col. Whitmire (left) with his flight suit, which is displayed in the museum’s Air Force gallery, pictured with museum pathfinder Mike Johnson, US Navy veteran

Col. Art Cole, USAF (Ret.) interviews veterans to document their stories for the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas. He also volunteers as a museum Pathfinder (docent) and makes presentations on behalf of the museum to school and community groups.