Master Sgt. Karen Christon, a staff member of the University’s Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps, has served abroad and in other states across the country during her time in the Air Force. But she said her most fulfilling work has been at the University.
“This has been the most rewarding assignment that I have ever had,” Christon said.
Christon, who retired this month, was honored in the Michigan League on Friday for her 25 years of service to the United States Air Force. Since enlisting in the Air Force in 1986, she has served internationally in Portugal and domestically in Kansas and Florida before landing in Michigan. In July 2006, Christon became a staff member of the University’s Air Force ROTC detachment.
“It has been a privilege to impact the lives of our future leaders … I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the students and making a positive impact on their lives,” she said in an interview last Wednesday.
Christon said her most memorable experiences at the University have been witnessing cadets swearing to support and defend the Constitution at graduation. She said her second-most memorable moment was witnessing cadets paint a message for her on The Rock on the corner of Hill Street and Washtenaw Avenue.
“For them to care enough to do that — that was the greatest gift ever … thousands of people don’t get that opportunity to get their name on the rock,” she said.
Christon also discussed how she enjoyed counseling the cadets as they prepare to enter the Air Force after graduation.
“It’s been a privilege to be there for them, to help guide them and help them understand what the Air Force expects of them.”
Engineering senior Brad Oatmen, a cadet in the AFROTC, said that Christon has been a driving force and mentor for all students in the program.
“She keeps us in check because she knows what’s actually going to happen out there,” Oatmen said. “She’s kind of the eyes and ears of experience that we don’t have.”
The close-knit nature of the University’s AFROTC helped Christon feel at home on campus.
“You develop a special bond, a special closeness, here,” she said.
Capt. Jonathan Liscombe, an assistant professor at the University’s AFROTC who worked with Christon for the past year and half, said he’ll miss working with her.
“She’s one of those rare employees that will lift everyone up, no matter what is going on in the day,” Liscombe said. “She always has a smile on her face, so it naturally puts a smile on mine.”
Liscombe continued, “From day one she introduced herself to me as Sgt. Christon, and she gave me a big hug. That’s very rare, especially in the military where it’s really formal.”
LSA senior Thomas Barger, an AFROTC cadet, said Christon helped him feel comfortable in the program.
“She has such a personality about her,” Barger said. “It’s not just that she’s a hard worker … She’s not intimidating, she’s very approachable, and she’s always joking with people, always laughing, always kind of teasing you a little bit, but always with something positive to say.”
Though Christon said she’s looking forward to the next chapter in her life, she’ll miss being at the University.
“I never even knew anything about football before being here at Michigan,” she said. “(Now) I’ve become a Wolverine to my heart … It’s just the camaraderie here at Michigan — it’s contagious.”