Passion, Planning and Perseverance Pays Off for 2002 Grad, Christopher Lang

At a very young age United States Air Force (USAF) Master Sergeant Christopher John Lang, a 2002 graduate of Southeastern Regional School District (SERSD), fell in love with airplanes. Within 5 years of joining the USAF, Lang’s passion for airplanes and dedication to excellence landed him a position serving our country’s First Family in his duties as Crew Chief on Air Force One.

Lang realized the advantage vocational education would offer him when applying to the military, straight from high school. Most of his Norton Middle School friends were planning to attend Bishop Feehan or Norton High, while Lang looked to Southeastern. “I knew I wanted to go in the Air Force and I thought, in addition to a diploma, a certificate of technology would put me a leg up on the competition.”

Lang left for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base just five days after graduating from Southeastern’s Metal Fabrication program. His ongoing USAF career has offered him extensive experience, taken him around the world, placed him in harm’s way and allowed him to work alongside both Presidents Bush & Obama.

Lang attributes his success to his personal strengths, drive, and the strong foundation of both vocational & academic offerings at Southeastern. Southeastern challenged him to pay attention to details, problem solve and be creative, “like an ‘outside-the-box’ thinker. My teachers and counselors really put me on my path to success.”

During freshman exploratory, Lang was impressed with Metal Fabrication’s Instructor Steve Flowers, the many different applications used in the welding industry, and the ability to do something different and new each day. “There was never any monotony and he (Flowers) was a very passionate teacher.” Once Sheet Metal was added to the program, “I was on Mr. Knudsen’s hip. He was a great teacher. They both led by example and that was a great way to learn when you are so impressionable.”

Knudsen instructed Lang & his classmates in the design and fabrication of ductwork for an outbuilding that houses SERSD’s Environmental program. He credits Lang with helping to recruit high-level students into Sheet Metal, as they worked to get the new program off the ground. Knudsen recalls, “Chris was a great all around kid. He never said no, and was always willing to learn.”

A member of the National Honor Society and a First Place Sheet Metal winner with VICA (SkillsUSA) at regionals, Lang also played both soccer & baseball his freshman, sophomore & junior years. Lang joined the football team as a senior, looking for a new challenge, “For Chris it wasn’t about playing football. It was about taking a chance and trying something new outside his comfort zone,” according to Coach Mike Smith. “Chris’ skills were a little rough around the edges, having never played football before. It took a lot of courage.” Smith commended Lang’s efforts, “By the end of the season, he improved in all facets of the game. He learned about perseverance and how to overcome obstacles.”

Lang brings that same perseverance and drive for excellence to his USAF career. Handpicked to serve as Crew Chief of Air Force One from February 2007 – December 2013, “It was amazing to have the opportunity to work and fly on the aircraft and to have the experience of interacting with the First Family. We were there for anything and everything from the flight controls and engines to the microwave and bathroom sinks.”

Lang enjoyed the opportunity to interact with President Obama. According to Lang, “He’d have general conversations with everyone, which you do not really think of when you think of the President. He was very knowledgeable about sports, music and current events. He’s a genuinely, personable man.”

Today, Lang serves as one of three USAF Air Carrier Evaluators, a position created following a tragic airline crash in 1985. Arrow Air, a commercial airline transporting U.S. troops home for Christmas, following a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai, crashed, killing all 248 soldiers onboard. Lang ensures all commercial air carriers, transporting Department of Defense cargo, personnel or their dependents, undergo full inspections and operate within all regulations.

Lang’s career has not been without sacrifice. He received his first Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal, serving a deployment to Iraq in 2003, after his position came under attack. He was also involved in flying combat missions during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Steel Curtain during 2005-2006.

With a long list of major awards and decorations from the USAF, Lang lives with his wife of 10 years, Sally, and newborn daughter, Ellie, just north of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He is currently finishing his Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Learning through the University of Louisville as well as his Airframe and Powerplant Certification with the Federal Aviation Administration. Lang looks forward to retiring from the USAF at age 38 and plans to travel the world again, this time with his family alongside.

Looking back Lang feels, “I did my best. I may not have always made rank the first try or been selected for this or that, but I did everything I could have possibly done to put myself in those positions so I have little regret.”

By:  Karen Olson