Maj. Gen. Walter Givhan thanks family and friends after his retirement ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base Friday. He served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 33 years. -- Josh Bergeron
Maj. Gen. Walter Givhan thanks family and friends after his retirement ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base Friday. He served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 33 years. -- Josh Bergeron

Selma native, Air Force general marks retirement

Published 8:28am Saturday, November 16, 2013

MONTGOMERY — As a student at Morgan Academy, Walter Givhan dreamt of flying airplanes.

“I always saw flying as something miraculous,” Givhan said. “It was something I always wanted to do. I built model aircraft and I read every book on flying in the school library I could get my hands on.”

Givhan also recalled watching aircraft leave Craig Air Force Base during football practice at Morgan.

Two weeks after graduating from high school, he walked into an Air Force recruiter’s office and joined the military.

Nearly 33 years later, Maj. Gen. Givhan — known by his colleagues as Waldo — celebrated his retirement from the U.S. Air Force after logging countless hours flying.

“I’m an Alabama boy,” he said during his retirement ceremony Friday at Maxwell Air Force Base. “To be able to retire in my home state, just brings everything full circle.”

Givhan is a 1987 graduate of Morgan Academy, but his ties to Selma began at birth. Both his mother and father are from Selma and Givhan grew up on a farm in Safford.

“Home was always Selma,” he said. “One of the beautiful things about coming back to Alabama for my last assignment is being close to home.”

Though Givhan grew up in Selma, his military career took him far away from home. His career includes assignments in Germany, Afghanistan, Washington D.C. and New York City, but there are two experiences he says are unforgettable.

“The first time you fly a jet you just fall in love,” Givhan said. “The second thing is your first experience in combat.”

He currently serves as the Commander of the Curtis E. Lemay Center for Doctrine Development and Education and Vice Commander of Air University.

Friday, Givhan received a bounty of praise from former colleagues.

Lt. Gen. John Bradley described Givhan as a smart, hard-working airman.

“He was really a great performer in everything he did,” Bradley said. “He built an air force from scratch in Afghanistan.”

Givhan’s retirement doesn’t start until January, but he is already making plans. He said the first order of business is a little relaxation.

After spending weeks and months away from family on military assignments, Givhan said he plans to spend time with family and focus on getting his daughter through high school in Dayton, Ohio. After his daughter graduates Givhan plans to return to his home state — Alabama — and perhaps pursue a career in higher education.

“One of the great things about the Air Force is it really prepares for a wide range of things,” he said. “For example, two of my assignments have been in higher education. I love that educational mission so one of the things I might look at is whether there will be an opportunity in higher education in the state.”

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