Chief Master Sergeant Schmidt - USAF (Retired) - Tallahassee, FL

From an early age, John E. Schmidt, Jr. was called to service and has spent a lifetime answering the call from his country and community. Men like CMSgt Schmidt (commonly referred to respectfully as “The Chief) are a rarity today. While many Americans appear to maintain a sense of ‘entitlement’ regarding what the country owes them, Chief Schmidt has worked hard from a young age and continues to contribute through a very active life at nearly 87 years old. He has been blessed with an intellect, servant’s heart, determination and commitment to leave this world a better place. It has made him a very wise and caring person.

For over 42 years, Chief Schmidt has dedicated his life to making an impact on the students, veterans and families of Florida. Through his tireless efforts working with his fellow Air Force Airmen, local government and school board officials, businesses arid civic leaders, his mark has been made. Shortly after retiring from active duty and establishing residency in Florida in 1981, he began a second career as a high school instructor.

However, there were no Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs in Tallahassee, so Chief Schmidt took his can-do attitude and began a crusade with Colonel Howard Weber to establish the very first one in Tallahassee at Godby H.S. With his expertise, determination, and belief that this type of training can have a very positive impact on students, he set out to help establish others in Leon County. 

Now, the county enjoys programs sponsored and supported by the Army (Rickards H.S.), Navy (Lincoln H.S.), Marine Corps (Leon H.S.) and Air Force (Godby H.S.), thanks in large part to what Chief Schmidt and a few others accomplished. For nearly four decades, these JROTC programs have developed young men and women of character and integrity, with a much greater sense of teamwork, commitment, and hard work both in and out of uniform.

During his 15 years as the Senior NCO and Aerospace Science Instructor at Godby H.S., he taught students basic aerospace science with a general introduction into the U.S. Air Force. He was entrusted to carry out the mission of the JROTC program of developing citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community. He instructed, mentored and trained thousands of students. While only a limited number of JROTC students enlist or continue their military training in college or at a service academy, most students graduated from the program better equipped to become productive citizens. Chief Schmidt maintained high standards and helped students understand the value of hard work and perseverance. It wasn’t uncommon for students who entered military service to reach out to the Chief for advice, or to share their successes with him. Many of his students went on to enjoy excellent military careers of their own. As a testament to Chief Schmidt’s standing among the faculty, staff and students of Godby H.S., the school’s AFJROTC training facility was named after him upon his retirement in 1996. His legacy at this school continues to this day.

Chief Schmidt is passionate about education at every level. He has long recognized the importance of teaching STEM curriculum to our youngest student. He is a strong advocate for supporting STEM-related teachers, and can be found in classrooms and science fairs lending his expertise and knowledge. Through his leadership within the Tallahassee Chapter of the Air Force Association, Chief Schmidt annually recognizes Teachers of the Year with scholarships and recognition at chapter quarterly dinners. He also promotes these teachers for recognition at the State of Florida level competition. He has assisted teachers seeking grant funding for special aerospace/STEM projects.

At the senior ROTC program level, and in particular FSU’s Detachment 145, Chief Schmidt has provided valuable counsel to numerous Professors of Aerospace Science, cadre, staff and students. Several years ago, the Detachment established the CMSgt John E. Schmidt, Jr. Community Service Award presented each year to the top student cadet who demonstrates their commitment to serving the community.

Chief Schmidt is one of our nation’s greatest Patriots! It would have been relatively easy for him to rest on his laurels after an esteemed career in the Air Force, but he chose to offer his unparalleled service to the residents and students of Florida. He is regularly invited to attend and speak at events throughout the capital region. Due to his standing and reputation in the community, he is sought out to write letters of recommendation for individuals seeking jobs, recognition, and one for an Eagle Scout candidate. He has written articles to the local newspaper and national aerospace magazines on issues ranging from leadership, management, history, flag protocol.

Further, Chief Schmidt is a well-known and respected vexillologist (flag expert), and is always willing to address matters concerning the proper way to fly, present, fold and retire the American flag. He is routinely called upon by private and public-sector organizations to instruct and educate on all matters of the American flag. He is generous with his knowledge and always willing to demonstrate and explain how best to show respect for the symbol of our country.

Chief Schmidt is legendary throughout parts of the state and is a fine example of a true military professional who cares deeply about people. He is humble and kind, and has made significant contributions to veteran causes. 

I have known John Schmidt for 21 years, and he has enriched my life through his generous and caring ways. He stands among the greatest leaders of our state with his sound wisdom, intellect, commitment to his fellow countrymen, and impeccable integrity. For me, it’s more than just a coincidence that he was born on September 11” – Patriot Day as designated by Congress. His love of country and proven commitment to service before self, defines CMSgt Schmidt as a Patriot in the truest sense possible.

He leads. For his entire adult life, he has been recognized as the one you want to get behind. Members of Congress, law enforcement, school board members, students, business and community officials have sought his counsel on a variety of issues because they trust and recognize Chief Schmidt as a stalwart of the community. The attached nomination package attempts to paint a complete picture of a man who has spent a lifetime in service to others.

Perhaps his most lasting mark on the State of Florida, and Leon County in particular, is his tireless efforts to help establish each of the four Junior ROTC programs in Tallahassee’s high schools. Working closely with his Colonel Howard Weber, the Leon County School Board Superintendent and principals, Chief Schmidt develop, coordinated and executed a plan to establish a JROTC presence in Tallahassee. This was no simple task. It required all the skills Chief Schmidt had honed during his illustrious 30 years in the Air Force – organization, perseverance, tact, and determination.

USAF Brigadier General William “Bill” Webb recognizes Chief Schmidt’s character and contributions to the State of Florida with the following tribute. “For more than a quarter century, I have worked closely with Chief John Schmidt. In so doing, I have witnessed him tirelessly serve our community, the State of Florida, and our fellow Veterans. He is an iconic representation of one who seeks service above self. I hold him in the highest regard and consistently seek his counsel. He has served us with honor, integrity, and passion. We have been fortunate to have him in our midst. He is a Distinguished Florida Veterans.”

Education and Training Accomplishments:

  • CMSgt Schmidt graduated from Balboa High School, Panama Canal Zone in 1950;
  • graduate of USAF Basic Training (1951);
  • USAF Leadership School (1955); 
  • USAF NCO Academy (1964); 
  • USAF Senior NCO Academy (1974); 
  • Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) Seminar (1975)

Professional and Employment History:

CMSgt Schmidt served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and U.S. Air Force beginning in 1950. Assignments include:

  • 1950 – 1951 U.S. Navy Reserve, Panama Canal Zone (Seaman Recruit) 
  • 1951- 1951 USAF Basic Military Training, Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone
  • 1951-1954 1954- 1955 3rd Crash Rescue Boat Squadron, Rodman Naval Station, Panama Canal Zone (Marine Engineer 85’ Crash Boat) 5700th Air Base Group, Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone (Training NCO) 3535th Navigator Training Wing, Mather AFB, CA (OJT Coordinator) 3539th Periodic Maintenance, Mather AFB, CA (OJT Coordinator) 3550th Crew Training Wing, Moody AFB, GA (Training NCO) 1955- 1956
  • 1956- 1960 AFROTC Det. 330, University of Maryland, College Park, MD (Tactical Training NCO) 
  • 1960-1963 1001ST Air Base Group, Andrews AFB, MD (Film Librarian/Education NCO)
  • 1963-1967 U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO (NCOIC, Film & Equipment Division – Dean of Faculty)
  • 1967- 1968 HQ U.S. Military Assistance Command, Saigon, Vietnam (NCOIC of Intelligence briefing for J2 and other staff agencies)
  • 1968- 1973 U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO (Chief, Production/Quality Control – Directorate of Instructional Technology – Dean of Faculty) 
  • 1973-1976 Inter-American Air Forces Academy, Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone (NCOIC of Training)
  • 1976-1981 HQ 4756th Air Base Group, Tyndall AFB, FL (Base Sergeant Major)
  • 1981-1996 Godby H.S. AFJROTC, Leon County/Tallahassee FL (Aerospace Science Instructor and Senior NCO in Charge)

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans:

  • Serves on Executive Council of the Veterans Group and Chairman of Safety and Security Committee – Westminster Oaks Retirement Community (Tallahassee) Generous philanthropist to 30 veterans’ organizations (annual contributions)
  • Air Force Association (Tallahassee Chapter) President (and has served as an officer and member of the Executive Council for 30 years; organized countless programs featuring guest speakers from the military and local community
  • Appointed by AFA State President to serve as Vice President for Community Partners to promote greater awareness to active military and veterans’ issues Lead local efforts to send care packages (Victory Boxes) to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan

Civic Activities and Contributions:

  • Distinguished podium member for Wreaths Across America (2013-2016) Keynote address/presenter numerous Flag Day and Memorial Day ceremonies Co-seminar presenter w/Brig Gen Bill Webb to FSU AFROTC Leadership Lab students (Topic; Officer-Enlisted Relations)
  • Conducts annual flag etiquette classes at elementary and middle schools, including classes of disadvantaged students
  • Routinely invited to make presentations to churches, civic and veterans organizations on flag history, protocol, and U.S Code
  • As the Senior NCO and Aerospace Science Instructor, oversaw hundreds of events (thousands of volunteer hours) promoting community service events and mentoring students and parents
  • Developed plan, raised funds, and assisted in the remodeling of FSU AFROTC Detachment 145 Heritage Hall for students and visiting parents
  • Makes annual AFA Silver and Bronze Medals presentation and scholarships to high school JROTC units in Tallahassee, Thomasville and Bainbridge GA
  • Actively supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs in Leon County middle schools by mentoring and assisting with grant kinds Serves as judge in annual middle school Science Fairs
  • Advocates and supports Civil Air Patrol (Tallahassee Squadron) by mentoring and presenting annual scholarship and Air Force Association Silver Medal
  • Guest speaker at Vietnam Travelling Memorial Wall (Topic: American Flag)

Awards and Honors

Military Medals/Awards/Citations:

  • Bronze Star Medal
  • AF Meritorious Service Medal w/1 OLC 
  • AF Commendation Medal w/2 OLC
  • AF Outstanding Unit Award w/2 OLC
  • AF Good Conduct Medal w/1 Star
  • Army Good Conduct Medal w/6 Knots
  • National Defense Medal w/1 Star
  • Vietnam Service Medal w/3 Campaign Stars
  • AF Longevity Service Ribbon w/1 Silver Cluster and 5 OLC 
  • AF NCO Professional Military Education w/1 OLC
  • AF Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon
  • Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/Palm Ribbon

Civic Awards and Honors:

Air Force Association:

  • Godby High School (Leon County) named AFJROTC training facility the CMSgt John E. Schmidt Center
  • Medal of Merit (multiple awards) Exceptional Service Award Sustained Service Citation
  • Chapter Member of the Year Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Godby High School (Leon County) established the CMSgt Schmidt Leadership Award presented annually
  • FSU AFROTC Detachment 145 established the CMSgt John E. Schmidt, Jr. Community Service Award presented annually
  • Leadership Tallahassee Distinguished Leadership Awards: Lifetime Leadership Award Nominee
  • Congressional Letters of Appreciation for leadership and Air Force advocacy Governor’s Veterans Service Award
  • FL Veterans Wall of Honor
  • Selected as an Honor Flight honoree