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Reservist anchors aweigh into the wild blue yonder

Tech. Sgt. Louis McCabe flashes a "Shaka" good-bye as he heads out, soon to take off his uniform for the last time. Sergeant McCabe, more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," began his military career with a tour in Vietnam with the active-duty Navy. He retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel)

Tech. Sgt. Louis McCabe flashes a "Shaka" good-bye as he heads out, soon to take off his uniform for the last time. Sergeant McCabe, more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," began his military career with a tour in Vietnam with the active-duty Navy. He retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel)

In this historical photo, then Seaman (now Tech. Sgt.) Louis McCabe, began his military career with the active-duty Navy in 1969 where he soon found himself piloting a boat on the Da Nang river in Vietnam. Sergeant McCabe,  more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

In this historical photo, then Seaman (now Tech. Sgt.) Louis McCabe, began his military career with the active-duty Navy in 1969 where he soon found himself piloting a boat on the Da Nang river in Vietnam. Sergeant McCabe, more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

In this historical photo, then Seaman (now Tech. Sgt.) Louis McCabe, who began his military career with the active-duty Navy in 1969 writes a postcard home to his mom. Sergeant McCabe,  more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

In this historical photo, then Seaman (now Tech. Sgt.) Louis McCabe, who began his military career with the active-duty Navy in 1969 writes a postcard home to his mom. Sergeant McCabe, more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," retired from the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Air Force Reserve on Aug. 8, 2010. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii -- After graduating from Waianae High School in 1969, he joined the active-duty Navy and soon found himself piloting a boat on a river in Vietnam. Forty-one years later, after many twists and turns of fate, he prepares to take off the uniform of an Air Force Reservist.

Tech. Sgt. Louis McCabe, more popularly known by rank and file as "Uncle Louie," has in the course of his military career been involved with many of the major conflicts the United States has engaged in since Vietnam including Desert Shield/Storm, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom.

In April 1971, he left active duty to pursue "any type of job I could find," said Sergeant McCabe. He finally settled on doing roofing for the next ten years. In 1978, he got married and his wife told him to look for part-time employment. This is how he ended up in the Naval Reserve where he remained until 2004.

Because of high-year tenure in his Reserve position as a SeaBee or construction specialist in Supply, he was about to retire when he found out that his good friend and fellow naval-Reservist Walter Horton had made the jump to the Air Force Reserve. Horton told him "to take a chance." Those words inspired Petty Officer 2nd Class McCabe to become Staff Sgt. McCabe.

Since making the jump in 2004 to the 48th Aerial Port Squadron and the Reserve, Sergeant McCabe deployed once a year for five years - twice in Kuwait, once in Turkey, and twice in Iraq.

"I was thrilled to death when the Air Force took me in," said Sergeant McCabe. "The biggest thing for me was deploying. I just loved loading and off-loading cargo and I got to travel a lot."

While attending the Transportation Proficiency Course at Dobbin Air Force Base, Ga., as part of his cross-training to become an Air Cargo Specialist, Sergeant McCabe stepped up and organized his classmates for study groups and social get-togethers. It was during this time that his fellow classmates dubbed him "Uncle Louie." Senior Master Sgt. Sonya Chyle, the class leader, wrote a letter of appreciation which mentioned the now infamous nickname.

When Sergeant McCabe got back home, Maj. Rick Wakabayshi, 48th APS commander at the time, announced out loud at an assembly "Staff Sgt. 'Uncle Louie' front and center" and read the letter.

"The ability to welcome and make troops feel at ease while away from home and loved ones is truly an admirable quality," wrote Sergeant Chyle. "'Uncle Louie,'as he became affectionately known was the nucleus and hub of entertainment for all that attended both the two week TPC and 60K Tonner classes."

And from that moment the nickname and his reputation for hospitality has traveled with him on all his journeys around the world.

"His ukulele playing in the desert was a great morale booster," said Senior Airman Derek Dumlao, 48th APS Cargo Specialist. "He put a smile on everyone's face no matter where they were from. Even in the middle east he could bring Hawaiian food to the desert."

One personal tradition he enjoys during his leave after these deployments is hanging out at the Shorebird, a popular Waikiki restaurant. The staff there obviously enjoys him as well, greeting him with hugs and kisses as they would a beloved family member, when he enters the establishment.

While enjoying the food and view, he keeps his eye out for a special opportunity. One of his friends, a bartender there, guides a couple his way, who she has discovered have never been to the islands or is on their honeymoon. Before the couple knows it they have unwittingly found their tour guide to the island.

So, now that he has completed this part of his journey, what is next for Uncle Louie?

"Go back to Iraq to work as a contractor," said Sergeant McCabe. "But also, to travel around Europe; I'll never get another chance so I'm taking it now."