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State Command Chief Master Sgt. Willette F. Lewis of the V.I. Air National Guard doesn’t have children. However, after 32 years of mentoring military members it was clear on Monday afternoon that she is leaving behind 70 airmen who have adopted her as their “mother hen.”
“The one thing I am going to miss about this organization is the people,” Lewis said. “It’s like being a mom and these are my children,” she said holding back tears.

Approximately 75 people crowded the Great Hall of the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Croix campus to congratulate Lewis. She is retiring after more than 32 years of military service—29 of which were spent in the VIANG.

Lewis led the way for females in the VIANG. She was the first to reach the enlisted rank of Master Sgt., the first to reach Senior Master Sgt., and the first female to reach her current position as Command Chief Master Sergeant.

State Command Sgt. Maj. Mona L. Barnes can relate. She is the first female State Command Sgt. Maj. In the V.I. Army National Guard, and she said she will miss the friendship and camaraderie that she had with Lewis. They both worked at the VING joint forces headquarters and would drink coffee and chat in the mornings.

Col. Jeffrey D. Buckley, the chief of staff for the VIANG said that Lewis’ career and achievements should be measured by the times that she made people breathless because of her hard work.

After receiving nearly a dozen gifts for her retirement, Lewis finally broke into tears when she was presented with a shadow box—a common military tradition that contains awards and mementos of a person’s military career.