CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
What would you do if the heart of your team died? How would you move on without that person who made you laugh every day - the one who encouraged you to be better than yourself, worked the hardest at every task and taught you how to enjoy and do well in your job. When someone like that is gone, it leaves a void that is difficult to fill.
The 27th Special Operations Support Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., is learning just how difficult this can be after the loss of Tech. Sgt. George R. Morgan, Jr., assistant chief tower controller. Though he passed away nearly two months ago on Jan. 18, for those who knew him, his absence is strongly felt. His memory, even now, continues to impact the lives of his team working in the air traffic control tower.
Morgan joined the Air Force as a maintainer, but later cross trained into a job he loved, air traffic control. While at his fist station as ATC he received the initials O.G., which to him stood for "Original Georgian", showing pride in his home state.
Once at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., he was promoted into managerial duties. This meant that much of the time he was working in an office instead of the control room directing aircraft.
"Morgan very much wanted to come back to the tower," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Stocks, 27 SOSS air traffic control watch supervisor. "He came here and it was a mix between a blessing and a curse because of the kind of worker he was. He worked hard and diligently, normally pulling 12-hour shifts. Because of that, he was given a lot of opportunities. They made him interim chief controller for a couple of months and then assistant chief controller soon after."
Even with this responsibility and heavy workload, Morgan still made time to work the desk contacting aircraft, and more importantly to him, interact with the Airmen.
He trained quality Airmen because was said to lead by example. During downtime in the tower, several chores needed to be done outside, such as pulling weeds. Morgan didn't tell his troops to do it. He went out and did it himself. Other Airman seeing this followed his example and came down to help. Morgan also picked up around the tower, vacuumed, and took out the trash - typically all younger Airmen duties.
"He didn't just want the job done, he got it done," said Senior Airman Hugh Stout, 27 SOSS air traffic controller. "It encouraged others to do the same."
Morgan provided an open door policy for any Airman who needed to talk. Stocks said Morgan was very easy to talk to and a great listener. Morgan had a way of talking with a person that made them feel, at that moment, they were the most important thing. He was open to discussing anything and had a good balance of telling people what they wanted to hear as well as what they needed to hear.
"He was definitely a people person," said Master Sgt. Bill Lince, 27 SOSS air traffic control tower chief controller. "After talking to him fifteen minutes you felt like you'd known him all your life and could tell him anything."
This was a feeling shared by many. "He was like your dad in the tower, your best friend and boss, all in one," said Staff Sgt. Tom Croteau, 27 SOSS air traffic controler. "You knew you could go to him for anything."
Morgan helped people in need and was well-known for this generosity. He was the man to call in a pinch because he was known to give a person the shirt off his back to keep them going. He helped many of his 27 SOSS coworkers. These are a couple of their memories:
Staff Sgt. Tyler Stocks
When I first got to Cannon, I purchased a telescope so I could take my daughters out to look at the stars. We drove out to Ranchville, but my youngest daughter decided she didn't want to leave the car. She was afraid of the dark. I left the car's power on so she could watch a DVD while the rest of us went out to stargaze. I realized too late that my car battery had been drained.
I think it was 10:30 at night and the only person I knew here was Morgan, so I called him. I didn't even ask him to come help me. All I said was, "Hey man, my car died and I'm stuck in Ranchville".
Without hesitation, he replied, "I'm on my way".
Airman 1st Class Christian Kist
Cannon was my first base. Before joining the Air Force my wife and I lived with our parents and the only bed we owned was a twin mattress that my wife used in college. I was talking with O.G. and mentioned that I didn't get much sleep because of this situation. Without saying anything to me, O.G. loaded up a truck with his own full-sized bed and gave it to us.
"He was always like that, even while we were stationed together at Yakota Air Base [Japan]." said Stocks. "Whenever an Airman had an issue, people needed rides, forgot their wallets, couldn't afford to eat, etc., you didn't even have to ask O.G. for help. Suddenly food would show up or he'd be at your door."
Another trait Morgan is remembered for is his notorious ability to tell a good story or joke. He made his audience feel as though they were part of whatever adventure he was narrating. He made people laugh when he did imitations, chanted the banana rhyme when things got crazy and used words like "blowupshuated" - a term he coined for whenever someone got overly emotional or was losing their mind.
"He brought this light to the whole tower and created a fun environment," said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Taylor, 27 SOSS air traffic controler. "Even if you were having a bad day, he could always make you laugh."
"I would never forget his smile," said Croteau. "He smiled all the time. Even when he was ticked off at the world, he would still be smiling and trucking on."
Without Morgan, life at the tower is less bright, said Lince. He left big shoes to fill, and to his credit, all of the ATC Airmen have worked to come together as a team to accomplish it. The facility has formed a new unity.
"It's as though there's a missing part that everyone has to make up for," said Lince. "I think O.G. would be proud of them."
Morgan was the glue that held the tower together, said Stocks. After he passed away the Airmen put their individual concerns aside.
"It stopped being 'I need this' or 'I can't help you with that' and has turned into 'we'; 'how can we accomplish this. How can move on?'" said Stocks. "It speaks to the caliber of what kind of person Morgan was that it is taking an entire facility to do what he did. It's admirable that people are trying."
A similar sentiment is shared by all of the people he worked with - Morgan will be missed and though his time at Cannon was brief he made a big impact. He will never be forgotten.