Together In Air Force
Growing up in the small, rural town of Safford, Arizona, there wasn’t a lot for four brothers, so they developed a healthy competitiveness against each other.
Although their careers didn’t begin at the same time, two brothers whose competitiveness lasted throughout their adolescent years brought their competitive talents to the United States Air Force, and eventually made their way to Aviano Air Base, Italy.
“I joined because I wanted to fly,” recalled U.S. Air Force Capt. Chase Cantrell, 31st Fighter Wing Chaplain, and oldest brother.
In 2003, Cantrell signed the dotted line to join as a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy loadmaster, which would allow him to fly as an aircrew member.
Meanwhile, Cantrell’s younger brother Master Sgt. Chandler Hunter, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons maintenance element noncommissioned officer in charge, was still living in Arizona and attended high school.
Not only were the brothers close in age, but they had similar career aspirations. Hunter later joined the Air Force at 17 in 2006.
“I watched my brother go through the process when I was 15, and knew I was going to join too,” said Hunter. “He helped me so much with the enlistment process.”
Little did the brothers know, their careers in the Air Force would cross paths.
Hunter spent his first year in the USAF at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, and Cantrell, already a few years into his USAF career, moved to the same base as his brother to work on USAF C-130 Hercules aircraft.
“Our career path was completely different,” said Hunter. “I would give him a hard time because he was a flyer and I’m was a maintainer. He taught me lot about his flying world, which was confusing at the time, but it makes a lot more sense to me now that I’m a Master Sgt.”
Cantrell explained how his relationship with his brother grew stronger during the year and a half they were stationed together.
“It was a great experience to share with my brother, not many siblings have that opportunity,” he said.
Cantrell’s decision to commission came after his fourth deployment, when he returned from a five month tour at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
“It was May 15, 2011, when God called me into Chaplaincy,” said Cantrell. “God told me I had deployed for the last time as a loadmaster and that I was to become a Chaplain.”
After finishing his Bachelors in Religious Studies and a Masters in Pastoral Counseling, Cantrell commissioned and became a chaplain candidate in 2016.
Fourteen years and multiple assignments later, Cantrell applied for an opening at Aviano Air Base as the Chaplain, and it wasn’t long until he joined his brother for a second assignment together.
“It was very exciting for both of us to know we were going to be stationed together in Italy, and I would have the opportunity to reenlist my brother for the last time,” said Cantrell.
Stationed together again, Cantrell stated the Oath of Enlistment to his younger brother on April 16, 2021.
“It was perfect timing how everything worked out…and a complete coincidence,” said Hunter. “The event was very special.”
Cantrell said he felt a lot of pride for being a part of his brother’s reenlistment, and the experience was special to him.
“Growing up we always supported each other,” he said. “The day of his reenlistment was no different. It was an oath we both had taken before, but that day we got to share it together.”
Hunter joked about having to salute his brother, but was excited to receive Cantrell’s first Chaplain’s coin. These brothers have experienced many firsts together, but have different paths.
Cantrell’s goal is to continue his journey in the Air Force until he is either too old or until he feels God’s call to another mission, he said.
Hunter plans to go to school for non-profit business management.
“While attending school, I felt like there was something bigger than myself,” said Hunter. “I decided when I retire, I plan to have my master's degree in non-profit management. I'm more about serving the people and making an impact.”