Chief Master Sergeant Maryanne Walts turned injury into inspiration, channeling her love for travel in her service to the Air Force and Air National Guard
The US Family Health plan provides quality health care to more than 150,000 members nationwide who are military retirees or the family of active-duty or retired military service members. We are honored to serve members like Chief Master Sergeant Maryanne Walts, who trusts us with her family’s healthcare needs.
Growing up in a large family in Westfield, Massachusetts, Walts longed to travel, yet her dream seemed out of reach due to her family’s modest finances. But following an airplane trip to Florida as a teenager that she paid for herself, she vowed to make travel her career and decided she would become a flight attendant.
Her dreams dissipated the following year, however, when she was seriously injured by a drunk driver while on a run. After several surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, the airline she hoped to work for rejected her candidacy because of her scars. Disappointed but not deterred, Walts took the advice of a doctor who steered her in a different direction that would still allow her travel, but would judge her success on her merit, not her physical appearance.
“Why not think about the military?” he asked.
Walts enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and headed to Texas and Mississippi for training. Ironically, the young woman who hoped to travel was then assigned to Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, bringing her back to home territory. She served there for four years, flourishing as a logistics expert.
After marrying her high-school sweetheart, Jack, and starting a family, Walts eventually considered a return to civilian life. However, an Air Force colonel persuaded her to continue her career by joining the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and where she became a supply systems analyst for the 104th Fighter Wing in her hometown of Westfield.
Her career had brought her full circle, and in 2014, Walts became the 104th’s first female Command Chief Master Sergeant. She is responsible for all matters related to the health, professional development, military readiness, and morale and welfare of assigned enlisted personnel and their families. She serves directly under the Wing Commander, Col. James Suhr, and represents the highest level of enlisted leadership within her wing.
For Walts, good leadership must be “strong, effective, and proactive, leading from the front, not simply managing people.” A key challenge for a good leader, she says, is “learning to separate your personal emotions from professional passions,” something she works on constantly.
CMSgt Walts embodies the attentiveness and personal focus that US Family Health Plan prioritizes in its relationship with each of its member beneficiaries. Her people skills, along with her dedication and diligence, have brought her much success in her military career. At the same time, CMSgt has experienced success as the mother of three sons, Josh, Jonathan, and Justin, and now as a grandmother. She has found that the principles that guide a military career transfer well to family life.
We at the US Family Health Plan are honored that Chief Master Sgt. Maryanne Walts chose the Brighton Marine US Family Health Plan program to provide her family’s health care coverage, and we thank her for her dedication to her country.
The US Family Health Plan thanks Brighton Marine’s “U” Magazine for its contribution to this story.