AFRL patriot retires after 44 years of service

By Jeanne Dailey

Robert Clougherty began his military service at age 17 and had no idea it would became a 44-year career filled with many fond memories and friendships.

On March 9 at the Air Force Research Laboratory on Kirtland Air Force Base, many of his colleagues and friends shared in an event celebrating his 44 years of service to the nation, 29 years as a military member and more than 15 years as a government civilian.

A native of Manchester, New Hampshire, Clougherty said he joined the military to get work experience and to use the GI Bill.

“My intent was four years and I discovered that I enjoyed the military and re-enlisted,” he said.

According to Clougherty, all of his assignments stand out as memorable. Some he considers especially noteworthy are his three command chief positions, one of them at Kirtland as the 377th Air Base Wing command chief.

While serving as a command chief to the Air Force Space Command commander, an incident during a visit to Minot AFB, North Dakota, stands out.

“My boss at the time, Gen. Howell Estes, and I had spent a lot of effort improving work conditions for our forces in the missile fields,” Clougherty recalls. “Out of the blue, a young Airman asked me to thank the general for his great support. I told him to tell the general himself, and I dialed the direct line to Gen. Estes and the astounded airman spoke to the general. Both parties got something out of the exchange. It was nice that I could do that for both of them.”

If he had to choose his most memorable assignment, perhaps it would be at Tempelhof Central Airport in West Berlin, Germany, where in addition to a remarkable base show of excellence and camaraderie, he experienced personal success in being named the U.S. Air Forces in Europe information security manager of the year in both 1982 and 1983.

Another honor he received was in 1998, when he was nominated to compete for the position of chief master sergeant of the Air Force.

His first retirement

Clougherty retired from the Air Force in 2001, and in 2002 returned to Kirtland to take a government civilian position with the 377th Security Forces Squadron. From there, he accepted the security chief position at AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate and later became the security chief for both AFRL units at Kirtland.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in AFRL,” he said. “We do some really cool things and now that I am seeing some transition to the warfighter, it is gratifying to know I was part of the support team for those efforts.

“The largest challenge I faced was striking a balance between security requirements and the needs of our scientists and engineers, and I think we have done that. We work hard to let them do their work with as little restriction as possible. I have had many blessings in my life and one of them was the opportunity to work with the good people of AFRL and the Kirtland community.”

“Bob Clougherty has provided a bedrock of support as we have dealt with many people and technology security issues over the years,” said Kelly Hammett, Directed Energy Directorate director. “We’ve asked Bob to do the really hard job of providing necessary security boundaries around our highly creative and intellectually curious workforce, who are charged to discover and develop new ideas and technologies for our warfighter.

“We need to keep and not lose to our adversaries this precious intellectual property, and Bob has steadfastly ensured that we have kept our technological edge. I could always count on Bob for the best and most trusted advice. Along with all of his colleagues and friends in AFRL, I will miss Bob — it’s not easy to replace the skills of a chief, active or retired.”

Besides his work at AFRL, Clougherty has kept a busy recreational schedule. He has played hockey with the New Mexico Hockey League two nights a week for seven years.

“It is just plain fun,” he said. “I also enjoy golfing, and I look forward to playing more often since I will be living in New Mexico, which I believe has the best weather anywhere! My wife, Karen, and I love our children, Colleen, Justin, Tanara, Valerie and Vanessa, and I appreciate all the support they have given me ...

“When I drive through the installation gates and show my retired identification card and the young Security Forces Airmen thank me for my service, I want to say to them, ‘Thank you for serving and keeping us safe!’”