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Face of Defense: Air Force Becomes a Family Affair

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood 86th Airlift Wing

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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Dec. 23, 2015 — For one family, the Air Force was not only the answer to their immediate financial needs, but also the start of a multi-generational journey.

Steve Nutt and his wife, Brittany Nutt, decided they were ready for a change.

"I was working multiple jobs, only getting a couple hours of sleep a night,” Steve said. “My wife was teaching, working in a pharmacy and trying to get into physician assistant school. One tax season, we got a tax bill for about $1,200, and we didn't have anything. We ended up paying it, but we were eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a few months straight."

For the Nutt family, working hard with little payoff was not the way to live. With advice from her uncle, who was an Air Force senior master sergeant at the time, the then 23-year-old Brittany knew the Air Force was the new obstacle for which she had been searching.

A Career Change, Then Another

"I wanted a change and a new challenge in my life,” Brittany said. "The Air Force offered benefits, a new career field and so many educational aids."

The couple both enlisted in the Air Force, with Steve graduating from basic military training the week Brittany began hers in San Antonio, Texas .

"My [technical] school was in San Antonio, so I would meet her at church on Sundays,” he said. "I would check up on her and tell her what she was going to be doing during training each week.”

Steve went on to become a services specialist, while Brittany became a flight medicine technician.

Two years into her first four-year enlistment, Brittany discovered she could earn a commission to become a nurse practitioner.

With a chance to further her career, many things had to be taken into consideration to ensure their home life was stable. Brittany said they mutually decided the best decision for their family was for Steve to leave the Air Force, while she went into the Airman Education and Commissioning Program for nursing.

Despite moving several times due to his wife’s career, Steve said he benefited from his experience as a services specialist by finding a variety of civilian jobs in fields as diverse as mortuary affairs and accounting. He is now retired after working as a deputy sheriff for the Solano County Sheriff’s Office in Fairfield, California.

Air Force Offered Opportunities

“I loved being in the Air Force and tried to excel in every aspect,” he said. “The Air Force and being in the services career field allowed more flexibility for me in the workforce [in the civilian sector]. Moving around, there have always been services jobs available, but the best job I ever had was being a deputy sheriff. I was able to get that job because I had military experience.”

The Nutts agreed the Air Force enabled them to progress in their careers -- in and out of the military.

"I knew I wanted to do something with nursing, so I kept pursuing my dreams,” Brittany said. “My husband mentioned the physician assistant program. It allowed me to become a nurse practitioner, which is what I wanted to do."

Today, Brittany is a major with 19 years of service, two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree and a doctorate. She’s assigned 86th Medical Squadron as a women’s health nurse practitioner.

Beginning a Tradition of Service

The Nutts’ decisions shaped their family in unexpected ways, they said, as Kiersten, their eldest child, has now joined the Air Force. And Brittany administered the oath of enlistment to Kiersten before she left for training.

"My parents and I had done a lot of talking about my future,” Kiersten said. "Enlisting in the military is a good way to dip my toes into the pool of adulthood. Aside from that, it's a very stable career path and no matter what field I go into, I know I’ll be well-trained.”

Kiersten said one benefit to growing up in a military family was learning adaptability to new environments due to moving every two to three years. She attended nine different schools in 12 years and says she learned to develop friendships wherever she went.

Airmen are not always guaranteed their first career choice upon enlistment. Kiersten said she wanted to work toward a broadcast career with American Forces Network, but instead will be working with radio frequency transmission systems. This hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for the Air Force, however. “I’m the type of person who sees the glass as 100 percent full,” she said.