War on Terrorism

Monday, February 13, 2012

Face of Defense: Father, Son Serve in Afghanistan

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Heather Skinkle
451st Air Expeditionary Wing

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Feb. 13, 2012 – Deployments are nothing new for Army 1st Sgt. Walter Josephs Jr., who is serving on his sixth. But his son and namesake, Air Force Airman 1st Class Walter Josephs Jr., is on his first.

Sergeant Josephs, a field artillery instructor deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, to Kabul, Afghanistan, has served 25 years in the Army. When he found out he would be deployed to Afghanistan at the same time as his son, who is a 451st Air Expeditionary Wing services journeyman deployed here from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., he couldn't resist checking in.

"I know the Air Force will take care of him, but nothing short of a presidential order could keep me from visiting my son to see him settling in," Sergeant Josephs said.

Going the extra mile, quite literally, is the norm for the first sergeant, whether it's for his family or the Army. While he was stationed in South Korea and Airman Josephs went through basic training and technical training, he flew out to attend both graduations. Seeing his son's shocked expression on basic training graduation day was worth the 16-hour flight, Sergeant Josephs said, but visiting his son while deployed is even more special.

"That God gave me the opportunity to be with him means more to me than winning $100 million," he said. "It's truly priceless." Airman Josephs said he considers himself lucky to be able to see his father downrange.

"Everyone around me is missing their family, so seeing my dad here is great," he said. And family isn't the only thing he appreciates here.

"This deployment has helped me realize how fortunate we are in the States," he said. "We have so many luxuries that most people don't have."

Sergeant Josephs knows something about not having enough. He grew up in Panama and moved to the United States in 1980. "[It was] Sept. 6, 1980," he said. "I decided to leave and do something better with my life."

Six years later, his dreams of citizenship and serving in the Army were realized. Since then, Sergeant Josephs has risen through the ranks and has been selected for promotion to sergeant major. He attributed his successful career to keeping a focused but helpful attitude.

"You should be like a racehorse with blinders on -- just watch your lane," he said. "Don't worry about what others do. As long as you do what is right, you can make a difference."

Both father and son share a drive, attention to detail and willingness to help others.

"My dad taught me to give 110 percent in whatever I do," Airman Josephs said. "I'm in school for a medical career, but with services, I'm a cook," he said. "I hate to cook, but I don't just throw things together. I try and do it right."

Airman Josephs works at the morale, welfare and recreation building at Camp Samek. A chief master sergeant in MWR even complimented Sergeant Josephs on raising such a nice, respectful son, and the elder Josephs said that makes him feel good.

"I'm so proud of the young man he's become and how he's contributing," he said. "Watching him help provide a place for service members to eat, play games, rest and forget about their jobs for a little while is amazing."

Sergeant Josephs said he's proud to explain to people what his son does in the Air Force. He tells people all the time, especially service members who might not feel their job is critical, that whether you are a cook or a pilot, everyone's role is important to the mission, he added.

"Without cooks, the pilots wouldn't eat," he noted.

Airman Josephs doesn't plan to stay in one area of services for his entire enlistment, though. Once his education is complete, he said, he hopes to be transferred to the gym, where he can be an athletic trainer.

"I like a challenge," the airman said. "I'm bored if things are simple. You don't improve that way."

Both father and son are driven to improve their lives. Airman Josephs continues to challenge himself through education, and Sergeant Josephs hopes that by attaining a higher rank, he can continue to give back and make a difference.

But even an energetic and committed person like Sergeant Josephs experiences fatigue occasionally. After staying up on the night shift to be with his son, he called his wife and explained he was having a hard time staying awake.

"She told me I could sleep later, and that I should be cherishing this time with my son," he said.

When Sergeant Josephs’ visit with his son had to come to an end, he needed to get back to Kabul, where he continues doing what he's done throughout his career: taking care of soldiers.

"Parents entrusted us to do that," he said.

Sergeant Josephs said he realizes that just as he's watching over his soldiers, the Air Force is watching over his son.

"I need to remember that he's an airman," he said. "He's not a kid anymore."

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