12/13/2010 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
The Air Force has a 63-year old legacy of providing airpower in defense of our nation and for the past 39 years one Air Force family has made it a family affair while building a legacy of their own.
Senior Master Sgt. Eldon D. King, 455th Air Expeditionary Air Wing ground safety superintendent, and Senior Airman Skyler T. Petitt, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules crew chief, currently serve at Bagram Airfield.
Besides being each other's wingman, the St. Joseph, Mo., natives are also grandfather and grandson.
Petitt's Air National Guard unit deployed here last month, and with it came the first deployment for the crew chief who completed his technical school barely one year ago.
There were so many people from the Guard unit who wanted to deploy, straws were drawn to determine who would come forward.
"I was excited and volunteered for this deployment," Petitt said. "I drew the straw to go."
Certain skill-level requirements needed to be met before he would be eligible though,
and the Airman accomplished them as quickly as possible.
"I had someone pushing me," the crew chief said, referring to his grandfather.
When his official tasking notification arrived, Airman Petitt's first call was to his grandfather who is assigned to the same Guard unit.
Sergeant King's first call was to the Air National Guard Bureau where he found the Air Force was in need of someone in his specialty for the same timeframe.
Knowing this would be his grandson's first deployment and his last due to the mandatory retirement age of 60 for Guardsmen, Sergeant King volunteered for the assignment.
"I love to go on any deployment," Sergeant King said. "I'll take any trip, anytime."
But this one had special significance.
"I would have fought for this," Sergeant King said. "When I found out he was coming, I wanted to be here for his first deployment."
According to the sergeant, not knowing quite what to expect and leaving all familiarity can be quite a shock as he remembers from his first deployment almost forty years ago to Saigon.
"I worked in mortuary affairs and was scared to death, and I wasn't even getting shot at," Sergeant King said.
"I wasn't surprised that he [Sergeant King] would do something like volunteering to be here," Airman Petitt said. "We're pretty close to what you might call best friends."
Back home in Missouri, the two live about five minutes away from each other and hunt and fish together regularly. The elder Airman taught his only grandson how to shoot, and they developed a special relationship early.
Since the age of 11, Petitt knew the Air Force would be a part of his life as he saw his grandfather support missions on every continent including a stint at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
Now, it is the first time for both in Afghanistan, and knowing a familiar face is so far making all the difference in an unfamiliar situation, according to Petitt.
"It's my first time away from home for the holidays, and I'm excited to be here, but there's nothing better than to have my best friend with me," Petitt said.
The Airmen's busy schedules do not allow them to see each other every day, but they make time to have dinner when they can. They were able to enjoy Thanksgiving together and look forward to the unique situation of Christmas in a war zone, Sergeant King said.
When the Airmen board a plane bound for home, they will do so together with one career coming to a close and another just starting.
The sergeant expects great things from his grandson, he said.
"When he was little, he was a busy child," the sergeant said half jokingly. "He was a borderline pain in the butt."
"But, he listens to me and respects me, and in turn I respect him back," Sergeant King said. "He's never let me down."
Regarding his own upcoming retirement, Sergeant King is a little less enthusiastic.
"Mandatory retirement is going to catch me," Sergeant King said. "To tell the truth, I'm gonna miss it, and wish I could keep going. But I guess like they say, with every ending comes a new beginning."
See the story in it's original posting at: http://www.bagram.afcent.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123234632