Chief Staff Sgt. Mary Belt > Eielson Air Force Base > Viewing Items
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska —
With over 28 years of service, Chief Master Sgt. Mary Belt, the 354th Mission Support Group senior enlisted leader, has established herself as one of today’s most dedicated and beloved leaders.
Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Belt never knew her mother, who died two days after she was born. However, she was fortunate to later be part of a blended family. Her father married her stepmother when she was 7, and she lived most of her early years in Durango, Iowa, with her five siblings. At 47, she is the youngest of all her siblings, the oldest being 70.
“I didn’t realize it when I was a kid, but as you grow up in a family with a huge age gap and a mother who grew up during the Great Depression, appreciating the little things in life is something. something I don’t take for granted. I’ve been told to work hard, never give up and be kind. Also, my mom always told us that you don’t go to someone’s house without bringing something thing and you always send a thank you note,” Belt said. “Those values that my parents instilled in me, I still carry them today.”
Driven by her desire to travel and attend college, Belt decided to talk to an Air Force recruiter and enlisted at age 18 without telling anyone. The surprise caught his family off guard but was ultimately well received. In August 1993, she took the bus to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the trajectory of her life changed forever.
“My life changed from selling shoes to graduating from high school. Never in a million years would I have thought this was where I would be now,” she said.
Shortly after graduating from basic military training, Belt traveled to Keesler AFB, Mississippi, for technical training to become an information management specialist.
While on her first operational posting at McConnell AFB, Kansas, Belt gave birth to her firstborn, Austin, now 27, whom she raised devotedly as a single mother.
“My son was born in 1995 while I was at McConnell. I was a single mother,” she said. “It was a struggle, but it was a struggle I would do again. I didn’t let that moment define my career. I just kept doing my job and I’m doing it well.
Belt expressed his gratitude to then-Chief Scott and his wife, Belinda, who lent a hand in caring for her and her son during one of the most difficult times of her life.
“Leaders like them are the reason I am the way I am. They saw an Airman 1st Class struggle and didn’t hesitate to take me under their wing. The Leader and Belinda gave so much during this stressful game of my life, basic needs like food and diapers for my child, a shoulder to cry on, feedback I needed to hear, and the confidence in myself that I could do it. I swore I was going to give back when I could, to those in need. That’s what I do. If they hadn’t come into my life 27 years ago, I don’t know what would happen. would have passed,” Belt said.
A few years after receiving the Senior Airman ‘Below the Zone’ award, a first promotion offered to airmen who show outstanding performance, she was tied to Italy where she began another chapter of her life.
“Being stationed in Naples, Italy has been a very rewarding tour. I was promoted to Staff Sergeant while I was there. But it’s also where I married my best friend and started the next part of my life,” she said.
From when she was E-4 until she became E-7, Belt’s primary job was to provide support to general officers. This involved preparing and arranging routes for commanders and accompanying them wherever the mission required.
“While I was at NATO working in protocol, we were going to countries that were in the southern region area of responsibility. So I was lucky enough to go to France, Spain, Greece and Portugal. I would go and organize these events with our team. It was hard work, but it was an incredible experience,” Belt said. “The countries, the leaders you meet and embracing all the cultures at each location were just amazing. That’s when my years of working for general officers began.
Although she has to travel frequently and constantly move from place to place, Belt never forgot to show her appreciation to her family for the willpower and sacrifices that come with being in a military family.
“If I have to say who my heroes are, they are my kids and my husband because they are the ones who are uprooted from schools, change jobs and don’t complain at all. And they’ve been doing it for almost 29 years,” Belt said.
Towards the end of her 12-year tour of Europe, Belt was offered the opportunity to pursue something she dreamed of doing in her Air Force career.
“Every time a general officer retired, he would ask me, ‘Mary, what can I do for you?’ I would say, ‘I just want to lead airmen. Can I have an airman to lead? I would really like to oversee and lead,” Belt said.
Staff Sgt at the time. Belt was ordered back to the United States and spent a year and a half on executive duty with the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott AFB, Illinois. One step closer to his dream of taking airmen under his wing.
As soon as she became head of the knowledge management section of the 375th Communications Squadron, she found herself leading not one, but 45 Airmen from diverse backgrounds.
“The best part of leading this team has been helping to address some of the diversity issues in this office. But I just came in with open arms and ears. ‘What do we want to do? What can we do to make the office a better place to work?” And I listened,” Belt said. “I let the Airmen tell me where the problems were and I left some of their ideas become solutions. It took hard work, but over time our section was back in the game, they were thriving, rewarded and happy to be at work. Be a part of this section and see the airmen grow is an important part of my career.
For her next assignment, Belt received orders at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, where she experienced serving in a joint environment for the first time.
“The biggest challenge of working in a joint environment was getting other services to understand how the Air Force works. It may have ended in a few screaming matches, but at the end of the day my airmen were taken care of,” Belt said. “That one really bothered me. I had never had to defend why I was dealing with airmen from another E-9 until then. It was very frustrating for me.”
In June 2019, she received orders from Eielson as superintendent of the 354th Communications Squadron. The following year, she was selected to become MSG’s 354th senior leader, which she says is the best way to end her nearly three decades of military service.
“I am in the best position to end my career. At MSG, we are the heart of the facility,” Belt said. “Every group has challenges and we met our challenges with determination, perseverance and courage. Although some of the challenges have been extreme, we have come a long way in the past two years. Our group is so powerful that we can move mountains. I am extremely proud of our team and the dedication each Airman brings every day. They are what makes me excited to come to work and do my best for them, as a leader.
Those who were fortunate enough to meet and work alongside Belt in their careers, whether as an airman, peer or mentor, could attest to his exceptional leadership and incredible character.
“My reason for enlisting back then was to go to school and travel, do something different and make my family proud. And then it became my goal. I was supposed to serve. I was supposed to lead airmen,” Belt said. “Everything we do is bigger than ourselves. This is what makes our Air Force the best force in the world and people should be very proud to wear this uniform. I know I am.”