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The Guard Family

  • Published
  • By Story by Airman Megan Shepherd
  • 179th Airlift Wing
Many people in the Air National Guard refer to their coworkers as their “Guard family”. In some cases, like the Burtons, they really are family. 

Cooper Burton stood next to his father as they both raised their right hands and recited the oath of enlistment Dec. 2 at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. Cooper enlisted into the Ohio Air National Guard and he is starting his career as a crew chief at the 179th AW. His father, Senior Master Sgt. Roger Burton, the fire chief at the 179th AW, reenlisted for the final term of his career. 

“It’s exciting to see your kids follow in your footsteps,” said Chief Burton. “It’s definitely kind of emotional because he’s going on his first enlistment and I’m going on my last.”

Chief Burton first joined the military in 1988 as Active Duty Air Force.

Ironically, Chief Burton originally enlisted at the 179th AW on Cooper’s sixth birthday. 

Chief Burton said Cooper started to show more interest in the Guard when he attended his older brother Zachary’s graduation from Basic Military Training in the summer of 2014. 

He said he saw his son, Zach, grow so much once he joined the Air National Guard and is excited to see that for Cooper.

“Even if he doesn't stay and make a career out of it like I did, I think it’s a good experience for him to learn the discipline, to be a part of the ‘Guard family’,” said Chief Burton.

Although Chief Burton’s career may be coming to an end soon, he is leaving quite a legacy. 

“It’s pretty cool that both of my boys are taking the same path,” said Chief Burton.

Cooper said he is just a little nervous for Basic Military Training, but he is very excited to start this journey.

“I always thought about joining, because my father has always been in,” said Cooper. “Growing up I wanted to be like him. Then, my older brother joined and that was just another thing that motivated me to join.”

In the Air National Guard, airmen should always be training their replacements. As each incoming recruit raises their right hand, they are nudging another veteran out at the top. For every senior enlisted member that retires, there is a new generation of airmen ready to serve and carry on their legacy. 

In this case, there is no difference between their family and their “Guard family.”