Retired Chief Master Sgt. Willie J. Burnett, 53, of O'Fallon, Ill., born Oct. 30, 1955, departed this life on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008, dying peacefully in his sleep at 2:30 a.m.
In June 1975, Willie entered the Air Force. After basic military training, he was stationed at Lackland AFB, Texas, attending the Security Specialist training course. Following this training, he was assigned to the 9th Security Police Squadron, Beale AFB, Calif., where he performed patrol duties in both Law Enforcement and Security. Other assignments in the Security Force field included tours to Torrejon Air Base, Spain; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; and a three year special duty assignment at a classified location.
In July, 1989, Willie was selected for First Sergeant Duty. Upon graduation, he became the 2nd Services Squadron First Sergeant at Barksdale AFB, La. While there, he deployed for eight months during Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. His First Sergeant duties sent him to assignment locations such as Camp Humphries, Korea; Sembach AB, Germany; Royal Air Force, Mildenhall, United Kingdom; and Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill.
In 1999, he was joined in Holy Matrimony to the love of his life, Retired Master Sgt. Bettye J. Smith. They settled near Scott AFB in O'Fallon, Ill.
During Willie's twenty-nine plus years of service to the Air Force, he garnered numerous awards including the 1980 NCO of the year, 401st Air Wing; 1996 First Sergeant of the Year, 352nd Special Operations Group; 1999 First Sergeant of the Year Mildenhall, U.K.; and 2000 First Sergeant of the Year, Scott AFB.
Willie obtained an associates degree in Industrial Security and held a bachelor's degree in management. His decorations included the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Achievement Medal and one oak leaf cluster and numerous other service medals.
Willie transitioned from the USAF directly into the same level of professionalism he stood for, "People Helping People". He worked for the 375th Air Wing as an Equal Opportunity Counselor and then took a job promotion to HQ AMC as an Equal Opportunity Program Manager.
Surviving are his beloved wife, Bettye; his two beautiful daughters, Tamia Burnett and Holly Burnett; his granddaughter and apple of his eye, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Griffin; brothers, Frank (Anita) Burnett, Jr. and Carl Burnett; sister, Laura (Robert) McRina; sisters-in-law, Essie (Lee) Finley, Linda Smith, Brenda Smith, Mary (William) Nance, Patricia Waller and Marilyn Yancy; brothers-in-law, J. B. (Delia) Smith, James Smith, Arthur Smith, Jakie (Bobbie) Smith, Stanley Lee, Charles Smith and Don Smith. He also leaves his special nieces and nephews, Meghan McRina, Micheal McRina, Kimara and Don Wright, plus a host of other relatives and many, many friends.
Funeral: Funeral services were held on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2008, 11:45 AM at the Scott AFB Chapel #1, Scott AFB, Ill. Interment will follow on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, in Birmingham, Ala.
MEMORIAL CHAPEL, Belleville, Ill.
Published in Belleville News-Democrat from Dec. 30 to Dec. 31, 2008