By Katherine C. Gandara , Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Chief of Public Affairs
/ Published April 23, 2012
Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- Some families pass on estates, heirlooms, or recipes. All families pass on a heritage. Master Sgt. Curtis M. Wilson's family heritage is more than 300 years of military service spanning three generations.
With 21 years of service already, Sergeant Wilson reenlisted April 2, 2012 with the help of his brother, Capt. Heath Wilson, in an innovative ceremony rappelling from a wall at the U.S. Air Force Pararescue School at Kirtland AFB, N.M.
"I was planning to reenlist and asked my brother, who joined the Air Force a year and a half ago as a nurse at Nellis AFB, Nev., if he would administer the reenlistment oath," said Sergeant Wilson who is a program manager for Command and Control Systems at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Headquarters at Kirtland. Captain Wilson is the Element Leader of the Multi-Service Unit with Nellis' 99th Medical Group In-patient Squadron. "We were working on a plan when my brother decided last-minute to bring his family for a visit during spring break, so we scrambled to make something happen."
With the help of AFOTEC's First Sergeant Senior Master Sgt. Pete Padilla, they contacted the Pararescue School where staff worked with them to make a memorable event. Two of the school's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape instructors gave Sergeant Wilson and his brother a quick rappelling lesson before they dropped 15 feet down the rappelling wall and performed the reenlistment ceremony.
"We used a flag that I've carried around to several deployed locations that include Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan and suspended it between us," said Sergeant Wilson. "I've been carrying this flag with the intent to present it to my brother when I retire. In addition to all the places it's been, it's now the flag he reenlisted me with and it was his first time to administer the oath of reenlistment as an officer."
Sergeant Wilson's family has always supported his military career and their own commitment to military service. "There was always an environment of encouragement when it came to joining the military," said Sergeant Wilson. "Our family has served in every branch of the service, including the Coast Guard, from grandparents, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even my wife."
"I've been extremely lucky, and also immeasurably proud, to serve alongside one of the best NCO's I've ever seen...my wife," said Sergeant Wilson. His wife, Tech. Sgt. Kellie J. Wilson, is assigned to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland. "My wife is my sounding board and support system, with her 'insider's' understanding. It can be difficult at times, but I think we're both better people and better NCOs because of our shared military experience."
Sergeant Wilson echoes the sentiment of many service members that military service is about being a part of something bigger than any individual. "I serve because I'm proud to put on the uniform every day and do a job I love," said Sergeant Wilson. "Also, throughout my career I have had the opportunity and privilege to mentor up and coming Airmen and that is very rewarding."
The sergeant went on to explain that throughout his career experience he has been able to share an important insight with new Airmen. "When you join the military, it's important to understand that this is not a "J-O-B" . . . it's a lifestyle and a commitment," said Sergeant Wilson. If you take that commitment seriously, you will reap the rewards of that relationship between yourself, your service, and those with whom you serve."
There have been many rewards for this career NCO, however, he says the biggest reward has been the pride he feels when he wears the uniform. "It isn't an arrogant sort of pride, but the feeling that the Air Force has helped me become a better person and a better American Citizen...yes, with a big "A", big "C"... and has shown me what I'm capable of as a person and a professional."
Sergeant Wilson hopes his children will carry on his family's tradition of service because he thinks service gives a person a unique perspective of the world. "It would make me extremely proud for my children to one day tell me they want to 'serve' in any capacity, whether it is in one of the military branches, a career in law enforcement, or some other avenue," he said. "My wife and I feel it's important to mentor our children about the importance of commitment to service and duty with the hope they will pass this value on to their children."
The AFOTEC senior NCO is very proud of his family's heritage of service and the legacy it continues to create. It is a heritage with its roots in a basic question once posed by Dr. Martin Luther King who said, "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" Sergeant Wilson and his family answers this question by making service a part of their identity.