OSI salutes 14th Command Chief upon retirement

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs
A true stalwart in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations family will soon hang up his blue suit and badge for the last time.

Chief Master Sgt. Walker H. "Hank" Cottingham, Jr., the 14th Command Chief in the storied 67-year history of OSI, bid an emotional farewell during his official retirement ceremony at The Clubs at Quantico Jan. 8.

"One of my family members began to cry when telling me how appreciative she was of the AFOSI team and their service to our country," Cottingham wrote in his last email message to the command Jan. 11. "I echo her sentiment and thank you for the additional gift you all provided - how you made my family feel. I can never repay you for that."

Col. Jeffrey Hurlbert, Director of Special Investigations and Senior AFOSI Representative to the Pentagon, officiated the retirement ceremony. He recapped Cottingham's stellar law enforcement career.

Hurlbert recounted Cottingham enlisting as a law enforcement specialist with Security Police, performing as a priority resource entry controller, patrolman, alert response team member, desk sergeant, an elite gate guard, investigator, flight sergeant, NCO in charge of mobility/supply and NCOIC of training.

In December 1996, Cottingham added OSI to his eclectic resume. As a Special Agent he's worked fraud, narcotics, deployed protective service operations, as a special agent in charge and a five-time superintendent.

He assumed his current position as the top enlisted troop in the command on July 10, 2013. The Tampa, Fla., area native retires from active duty effective April 1, 2016.

Among Cottingham's principle's he strives to live by in both his professional and personal life is that there is no limit to what a person can do or where they can go as long as they don't mind who gets the credit.

"This goes to my belief in the power of working as a team, or if you will a family," he wrote in the email. "I use the two words interchangeably when talking about AFOSI."

There is no stronger people advocate in OSI than Cottingham.

In the current OSI Fact Book his leadership commentary is titled simply, "People Always." In it he ends with, "I am proud of our people what they accomplish with our partners each and every day. In the most austere environments, under less than ideal conditions, they never shy away from their calling and what our nation has asked of them. Our corporate structure and technology are impressive; OUR PEOPLE are what make us great."

The 30-year Air Force veteran was presented the Legion of Merit during his retirement ceremony. The decoration is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

During the retirement luncheon that followed, Mr. Jeffrey Specht, OSI executive director, made a notable observation.

"We're about to graduate our 15,000th Special Agent from the academy and have had only 14 command chiefs come up through the ranks," he said. "That makes the position a big deal."

A grateful command showered Cottingham with parting gifts, some more light-hearted than others, but all given with the utmost thanks and appreciation to their 14th Command Chief for sharing his steadfast leadership, mentorship and friendship.

"I hate good byes," he wrote in the message on the back cover of the current OSI Global Reliance Magazine." Please take care of yourself, your loved ones and each other!"