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Military

By USAF Sgt. Stefanie Torres

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Father, Son Deploy Together To Southwest Asia
(October 30, 2010)

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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 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
Copyright 2010

Provided through DVIDS

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