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Legacy of service strengthened by community roots

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacob Gutierrez
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A community is only as strong as those who contribute to it. A village together can help one another raise the metaphorical child. Nowhere is this line of thinking more significant than in the communities that foster the nation’s men and women in arms and their families.

The city of Sumter, South Carolina, has long been host to the Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and the approximately 20,000 Airmen, civilians and their families who help it take flight. This seemingly sleepy southern hamlet has seen generations of our nation’s greatest arrive to call this corner of the world home.

“I was one of those people who didn’t really expect much coming here, after so many different moves over my life,” said Officer First Class Kelsey Wade, Sumter Police Department patrolwoman. “Sumter was different though. Often times I’m greeted by complete strangers out on the street.”

Kelsey followed her family to Sumter after attending college when her Father, Chief Master Sgt. David Wade, now the command chief of Air Combat Command, was assigned to Ninth Air Force, now Fifteenth Air Force, in 2017.

Chief Wade, along with his wife Stephanie, were seasoned professionals in the art of moving and for them this move was another opportunity to meet new people and explore a new place for their family to reside.

“We had expectations that the community would be supportive, said Stephanie. “What we weren’t expecting is just how supportive Sumter would end up being.”

Stephanie worked in tandem with Team Shaw spouses, first sergeants and community leaders to hold a yard sale with all proceeds going to supporting Airmen on the installation.

While the community provided opportunities for the Wade family to prosper, Kelsey wanted to offer the same opportunity back to Sumter.

“I always look for the tight knit organizations and groups who work together,” said Kelsey. “The networks that combine their strengths and goals to do the most good for the community.”

With her father still on active duty and her mother being an Air Force veteran, the mantle of dedication to service was featured prominently in their family and was a driving force in her decision to join the ranks of the Sumter PD.

“I’ve always had the heart for serving others and making an immediate change in someone’s life,” said Kelsey. “I always thought a life serving others is a life better lived. “It’s easy to feed your needs, but it’s harder to feed the needs of others.”

Kelsey was sworn in to the Sumter PD in August 2019. Since then she has worked to ensure that she not only protects the community, but actively serves it as well.

From serving lunch to elementary school students to building relationships with local business owners on her patrols, Kelsey makes a point to engage with people and encourage a natural rapport between citizen and guardian.

“My job can be scary sometimes, but it’s also about the smaller things,” said Kelsey. “What makes me happy is making just one person smile. That’s what really makes a difference.”

While her dedication to her job is unwavering, Chief Wade attributes the ongoing passion his daughter has toward her career that not only drives her to success and happiness but also does the same for anyone serving in any capacity.

“She may tell you that she isn’t fearless, but it’s her actions that show that she is,” said Chief Wade. “I love what she’s doing and I love the community that she’s in.”