James Cody, the 17th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, bid farewell to the Air Force after more than three decades of service on Friday.

"These 32 years have been an incredible journey for us," Cody said of himself and his wife, retired Chief Master Sgt. Athena Cody, at his retirement ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. "Athena and I will always be eternally grateful for what the Air Force has done for us and given to us. And we will continue to do our best to pay it forward into the future. It's been the professional honor of a lifetime to serve as your chief master sergeant of the Air Force."

As part of the ceremony, Cody's successor, Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, was officially appointed the Air Force's 18th CMSAF.

In his farewell speech, Cody paid tribute to his wife Athena Cody, and their children, Tech. Sgt. Drew Cody and Dani. The Codys met at tech school in 1984, shortly after each joined the Air Force.

"Athena has made me a better man, a better dad, she made me a better chief, and she absolutely made me a better chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Cody said. 

In a statement to Air Force Times earlier this week, Cody expressed gratitude to the airmen he served with over the years.

"Our airmen continue to rise to significant challenges and I've been extremely proud to serve with them as the 17th chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Cody said. "Athena and I will always be grateful for the opportunity and privilege to serve with such amazing people, and we'll certainly remain committed to our airmen."

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright.
Photo Credit: Air Force

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein lauded Cody as a respected airman who "shot straight" with enlisted and "adopt[ed] the entire total force as members of his family." During his tenure, Goldfein said Cody was on the road about 250 days each year, and made 120 base visits, including six trips to the Middle East.

Goldfein also praised Cody for overseeing the massive overhaul of the enlisted performance evaluation and promotion system, doing away with an old system that critics said led to runaway performance rating inflation, as well as revamping professional military education.

"Chief Cody is passionate about preparing airmen for the fight, and it is no surprise that he left a lasting impression across the force," Goldfein said.

Acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow applauded Cody for his work improving the diversity of the enlisted force, on sexual assault prevention and helping wounded warriors. Disbrow also said that, after a steep drawdown in 2014, Cody has helped lay the groundwork for once again growing the enlisted force.

Goldfein presented Cody with the Distinguished Service Medal.

Goldfein also called incoming Chief Wright his new "wingman," and said choosing him was the most important personnel decision of his career.

"Chief Wright held a variety of senior enlisted positions while serving at squadron, group and wing levels, each time providing his signature wisdom and steady calm for a host of Air Force leaders," Goldfein said. "Bottom line: Chief Wright is a leader of character, a leader of airmen, a servant of airmen, and a voice for their families. We have a lot to accomplish together, and this is an exciting time to be leading today's Air Force."