08/28/05 — New vice commander takes helm

View Archive

New vice commander takes helm

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 28, 2005 2:03 AM

Col. Charles G. "Chuck" Duke, 4th Fighter Wing vice commander at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, is no stranger to North Carolina. In fact, he's back for a second assignment at Seymour Johnson.

With a father in the Army, Duke grew up in the Fayetteville. His own military career began with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at East Carolina University.

After graduating from East Carolina with a degree in business administration and management, Duke began training at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. Since then, the Air Force has taken him to places such as California, Texas, Florida, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Spain, Denmark and Turkey. Throughout his career, he has primarily flown F-16 and F-15 E fighter jets.

From 1994 to 1999, Duke served in several positions at Seymour Johnson. He worked as an assistant operations officer and commander in the 335th Fighter Squadron and then deputy commander of the 4th Operations Group. He said his children had enjoyed years of traveling and new places, until they set roots down in Wayne County.

When Duke was assigned to Oklahoma, his son Chad initially protested. After spending three years at Eastern Wayne High School, he would have to graduate from a high school in Enid, Okla. Chad relented but eventually came back to the state to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chad, now 23, and sister Courtney, 26, have begun families of their own. Duke's youngest son Connor, 19, is a sophomore at East Carolina.

After six years away, Duke said he and his wife were excited about returning to Goldsboro.

"It was a good opportunity to come back home and experience some good ol' Southern hospitality," he said.

One of the benefits of returning to Seymour Johnson is running into airmen he helped train.

"Some of the guys I remember training as an instructor pilot -- I put wings on their chests -- are now instructor pilots."

On Thursday, Duke celebrated his birthday in an unusual way.

"Not many guys, on their 50th birthday, get to fly an F-15E Strike Eagle."

Duke will have been in the Air Force for 28 years this October. His current tour will last two years, and he plans to retire afterward. "It's hard to believe it went that fast," he said.

Duke said he and his wife, Sherry, are back in North Carolina to stay.

"I can't think of a better place I'd rather close out a career," he said.