SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Family is often an integral part of military promotion ceremonies. Spouses, children, parents, siblings and other relatives witness the time-honored ceremony and take part in the tradition of pinning or tacking on the next rank.
For Col. Kristine B. Smith, 710th Combat Operations Squadron deputy director at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, her promotion meant a little more this time.
Col. Dustin P. Smith, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces Central Command chief of staff at Shaw Air Force Base, and Kristine’s husband, stood right by her side as he promoted her July 14.
The new colonel’s journey began 21 years ago when she joined the Air Force in August 1996 as an air battle manager on Ground Theater Air Control Systems, then for the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.
She first crossed paths professionally with her future husband when she was a lieutenant.
“I worked for him in the air control squadron, and he was my supervisor,” Kristine said. “We’re in the same career field, but he’s six years senior to me. So, we’ve always been in the same circle as far as [our] careers go.”
She expressed it wasn’t until years later that they eventually started dating. Once married and with their first child, Kristine said she decided to transition into the Air Force Reserve, after eight years on active duty.
For the last few years in the Reserve, Kristine was a program manager until her current job at the 710th COS.
“We are responsible for the [AN/USQ-163 Falconer] Air Operations Center, so management of the operational level of war,” she explained.
Through their marriage, Dustin has been by her side -- a big reason for his part in the promotion ceremony.
“He’s my husband,” she continued. “He’s been my biggest cheerleader, a mentor, a supervisor. He serves both roles in my professional and personal life, so there’s no better person to promote me … We’ve been doing this for 15 years together, and before he retires, he gets to see me as a colonel.”
This was a role the former USAFCENT chief of staff proudly took on for his final duty in the Air Force.
“It’s always an honor to do a promotion, and it’s special to do hers,” Dustin said. “I promoted her to lieutenant colonel, so it’s an honor to be asked again for colonel. It will be my last promotion, but it won’t be hers.
“It worked out perfectly. As I’m leaving my role as colonel and she steps in, I think the timing is perfect,” he continued. “It worked out that way through chance, but in the end, it keeps the lineage going, keeps the Smith colonels going.”
Immediately following Kristine’s promotion ceremony, the chief of staff officially retired after 26 years of service. He was a senior air battle manager with 1,800 flight hours in the NATO E-3A and E-3 B/C aircraft.
Before his final position, he was the USAFCENT director of operations where he played a critical role in the opening phases of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel. His leadership ensured seven directorates and nine special staff agencies maximized use of limited resources to ensure the generation of more than 3,000 combat sorties, resulting in more than 7,700 air strikes against enemy forces.
As he pondered his wife’s career, he had nothing but glowing remarks for her. According to Dustin, her supervisors and leaders could see her “talent,” which he credits to her always being at the top of her peers.
“She’s done a phenomenal job over the last 15 years we’ve been married,” he continued. “She’s doing it all -- an Air Force officer, a wife, a mother. She balances that all so well. We get to benefit from her outstanding work and service.”