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Inspiring A New Generation
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alan Ricker
February 26, 2024

For years, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Cook, 613th Air Operations Center air mobility division senior leader, has continued to influence individuals to be their best and showcase that it’s possible, no matter the background, to achieve anything.

February 21, 2024 - U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Cook, 613th Air Operations Center air mobility division senior leader, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Cook uses his upbringing, background and experiences to have a positive impact on Airmen and underprivileged kids. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alan Ricker.)
February 21, 2024 - U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Cook, 613th Air Operations Center air mobility division senior leader, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Cook uses his upbringing, background and experiences to have a positive impact on Airmen and underprivileged kids. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alan Ricker.)

“It’s not about where you started off ... it’s where you end up and it’s about the journey,” said Cook.

Cook explained that he was wrongfully arrested at the age of 14 for an incident that he did not commit. Soon after, he was influenced into a delinquent lifestyle.

“After a couple of convictions and stints in jail, it was a correctional officer in [a] county jail who helped me out and a lot of good people who saw more in me than I saw in myself,” said Cook.

With some motivation from his mentors and after the historic attack during 9/11, Cook decided to join the Air Force.

“I wanted to earn a steady paycheck, a sense of belonging, a brotherhood, a sisterhood,” said Cook. “I wanted to travel as well. I wanted education, I wanted any and everything [the Air Force] were willing to offer. Through God’s grace, I was given it and I earned it.”

During his career, Cook explained that he’s been able to achieve more than he could ever imagine. He’s worked as military police, a raven, a boom operator, a master resiliency trainer and is currently working as a senior leader in the 613th AOC.

He also competed in powerlifting competitions around the world, breaking state records, and continues to mentor kids through social programs to steer them towards a brighter path.

Cook explained that he started to share his story during his long shifts while working as military police. He said that he was concerned about negative feedback, but was met with positive reactions.

“I thought there was going to be a lot of criticism because of who I was and who I used to be,” said Cook. “Coming to find out, it was the total opposite.”

He continues to participate in mentoring programs, sharing his story with inner city students and Airmen.

“There’s millions of kids that grew up the same exact way as me and they just need to see an out and be given the opportunity,” said Cook. “Their faces light up because they can see themselves and I can see them. It's amazing. It's a good feeling and it re-blues you.”

Cook never planned to make a career in the Air Force at first, but now has the intention to continue to make his mom proud and be an example for his two sons.

“I wanted to give her a reason to be proud of me,” said Cook. “I wanted to see her smile at my retirement, whenever that may have been or when I got out.”

He expressed that his aspirations continue to grow and are not limited to just one thing.

“I would like to be called Chief one day ... I would love to accomplish that,” expressed Cook. “I would love to open up a community center and just help kids, help guide them. I would love to be able to give back more.”

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