Father, Son Deploy Together To Southwest Asia
(October 30, 2010)
SOUTHWEST ASIA - While most service members leave their
families at home to serve their country, a father and son
recently had a chance to travel nearly 7,000 miles together
for a six-month Air Force tour in Southwest Asia.
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Gunther and Airman 1st Class Robert Gunther Jr., a father and son deployed here from the Illinois Air National Guard, enjoy a meal together at an undisclosed air base Oct. 24,
2010. Sergeant Gunther, first sergeant for the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, and Airman Gunther, an electrician in the same unit, often spend off-duty time together when not working.
Photo by Senior Airman Laura Turner
Senior Master. Sgt. Robert Gunther and his son,
Airman 1st Class Jacob Gunther, are currently
deployed to the 386th Expeditionary Civil
Engineer Squadron here from the 182nd Civil
Engineer Squadron, an Illinois Air National
Guard unit based in Peoria. Although it's rare
for family members to deploy together in the
active-duty Air Force, this situation is not
uncommon for Guardsmen, explained Sergeant
Gunther, 386th ECES first sergeant.
This tour marks the first deployment for Airman
Gunther and the second for his father. With
almost two years in the Air Force, Airman
Gunther followed in his father's footsteps to
become an electrician. The satisfaction he gets
from working with his hands helped him decide
early on that
deskwork was not an option for him, he said.
"I've always loved working with my hands, and as a little kid I would always
work little projects around the house with my father," he said. "I have always
been a hands-on type of guy."
Familiarity with the Air Force was brought on at a young age when his father
would take him to drill weekends, where he witnessed the camaraderie that comes
with military life. It was not until his freshman year of high school, however,
that he decided it was time to serve his country.
"I always knew it was something I was going to do," Airman Gunther said. "My
alarm clock waking me up in the morning was reveille, and the ring tone on my
phone was the Air Force song."
His father, who joined the military in September of 1979, also knew growing up
that he would join the military - and so did everyone else around him.
"I've always loved planes," he said. "Everyone knew that I would join, and it
wasn't a surprise to anyone. I needed a little direction when I was a kid, and
the Air Force was the place to get it."
The Air Force has long deployed worldwide as a Total Force of active-duty
members, Guardsmen and Reservists, all working together as a team. But Sergeant
Gunther said he wasn't sure how the active-duty force would respond when they
found that he was deploying with a family member.
"Having family with you in the military can be a challenge, but this has been a
very positive experience," he said. "The reaction from everyone has been really
positive. They've all been great."
Even with a family member in the same unit, Sergeant Gunther's mission hasn't
changed. As a first sergeant, he reaches out to all of his 260 airmen, the same
as he would his son.
"Everyone knows I don't play favorites," he said. "I don't work directly with my
son as an electrician, but he will stop by to see me a couple of days a week."
The two also make time for each other during off-duty hours, fostering their
close bond by attending church together on Sundays and often eating meals
together as father and son.
"Quality time together here is easier to develop compared to at home, as
everyone knows when you are home you lead separate lives," he said. "We are on
exception to that. The times we spend together back home centers around outdoor
activities and work to a certain extent, but here it is easier to spend time
outside of these elements."
By USAF Sgt. Stefanie Torres
386th Air Expeditionary Wing
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