Father, son bloodline runs through Keesler

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
At least two Airman Erne's have come to Keesler for technical skills training. One came through in 1987, and the next 26 years later with his father now the superintendent of the same squadron.

Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Erne, 338th Training Squadron superintendent, and Airman 1st Class Devin Erne, 338th TRS student, have been reunited under simultaneous orders to the same base and squadron by complete chance.

"The chances were slim to none," said the chief. "And it's great, because I'm separated from the rest of my family, but now my son will be around for about six months."

Chief Erne was stationed to Keesler in 2013 after his unit at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., was closed. He had been there less than a year and his family was just becoming established, so he decided to move to Keesler alone.

"I didn't want to move my oldest daughter who is now in high school," he said. "I made the sacrifice to come to Keesler by myself."

His son managed to join him at Keesler by the merit of his technical training requirements.

In the fall of 2013, Devin told his father what his Air Force Specialty Code would be, which allowed Chief Erne to determine his son's assignment to his own squadron. Devin went to basic military training and came to Keesler for his cyber transport schooling.

In a further string of coincidence, Erne also knew his son's BMT military training leader.

"Day one of basic training, I get a text message from Tech. Sgt. Green, a former troop of mine when I was a first sergeant with security forces in Germany," said Chief Erne. "My son was in his flight. It was reassuring because I knew that he was being taken care of by a great leader."

Having connection to the Air Force in this way didn't give young Erne any leeway.

"I was one of his earliest trainees," said Devin. "But he didn't give me any special treatment; maybe he was even harder on me. He was the only MTI that could get inside my head."

"Even though I was confident going into basic, I still learned a lot," he added.

Aside from the military, the two men are quite different, said the chief.

"I like working on cars, hunting and fishing," said Chief Erne. "My son was always into playing video games and reading. We had different interests until the military brought us together."

"When he was born I was always on the road for temporary duty assignments," he added. "But, we got close once he joined Junior ROTC in high school, that's when we clicked. We chat every day now. We're closer now than we were before."

Though they are close now, geographically and in their relationship, both Ernes have led different paths into the Air Force.

"I joined because I got tired of school," said Chief Erne. "I came home from school one day and I told my dad I was done. I didn't want to sit in a classroom anymore, I wanted to go out and do something."

The chief met his wife through the Air force and started a family. His increase in responsibilities had him staying in the military for the long haul, he said.

"It was tough in the early years when my dad was deployed a lot," said Devin. "But he did it for the wellbeing of the family. He's treated me on the same level as he has his Airmen, especially when he was a first sergeant. He held me to a higher standard, which was good for me."

Devin had also joined the Air Force after some schooling, going to the University of Oklahoma for a couple years toward a degree in civil engineering. He had always planned to join the service after high school though, he said.

"The Air Force has shown my family a great way of life, and my dad was my role model growing up," Devin added. "The military has run for generations in my family. You could say I was born for it."

Now at Keesler, which also happens to be where he was born, Devin is in the advanced transition period of his technical training. Although permanent party Airmen and nonprior service students aren't allowed to associate, the Ernes are able to on occasion thanks to permission from leadership, said Chief Erne.

"I guess they've never had this type of situation before," he added.

Being able to see each other as family is a great perk, but Devin doesn't allow it to affect his schooling, he said.

"We don't see each other too much during the week so I can live my own life as a tech student," said Devin. "I don't want too much to be influenced by his position. I don't feel that anything should be given to me just because of who my dad is."

Everyone in his squadron is aware of the connection, however, as Chief Erne is a vital position in the 338th leadership. The only real affect is that Devin has been nicknamed "Chief," which he takes with a good spirit.

"It actually helps me get to know people," said Devin. "It's helped me create a humorous bond with people, since they already have an association with me, I can show them who I really am."

Devin is open to all possibilities in his career, with the pursuit of Officer Training School at the forefront of his goals. He is glad to serve in whatever capacity he can, he said.
Chief Erne hopes to find his way back to Tinker, to be with his family, he said.

The overlap at Keesler is merely a segment in both Erne careers.

"I never planned to stay in this long, but then I met my wife and had children," said the chief. "I never set out to become a senior master sergeant, let alone a chief, either. I just did what I had to do.

"My son knows what it takes to be successful in the military and he's had plenty of good mentors along the way. It's in our blood."