Face of Defense: Airman's Lineage Spans Three Generations
By Mike Joseph
502nd Air Base Wing
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Feb. 7, 2011 Growing up, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Paxton knew it was only a matter time before he would follow in his family's boot prints.
From left, Jack Paxton, Jr., Air Force Staff Sgt. Jason Paxton and Jack Paxton talk about serving as military training instructors for the Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo by Alan Boedeker
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Though family lineages in military service aren’t uncommon, the Paxtons stand out for the way three generations chose to spend part of their Air Force careers.
Paxton is now going down the same path chosen by his father and grandfather as a military training instructor.
"Even when I was in high school, I knew I was going into the Air Force," said Paxton, who serves in the 323rd Training Squadron. "And I always knew at some point I was going to be a TI, because I thought it would be cool to be a third-generation TI."
The Paxtons’ military training instructor lineage started in 1970, when the sergeant’s grandfather, Jack Paxton, arrived here from Vietnam. He joined the Air Force in 1954 to leave West Virginia, he said, "because there was really nothing for me there.” He spent four years as a military training instructor here before retiring and taking a civilian job on the base.
It wasn't long after his father’s retirement before Jack Paxton Jr., one of six children, followed his lead into Air Force blue.
"About a year after high school [in 1978], Dad woke me up one morning and said, 'You've got an appointment at the recruiter's office,'" the younger Jack Paxton said. "I didn't know what I wanted to do -- my dad nudged me along. If I could go back and do it all over again, I'd do the same thing."
The "same thing" translated into an Air Force career. Twenty-two years later, he retired as a senior master sergeant. He spent eight of those years as a training instructor, section supervisor and superintendent.
"I knew I wanted to be a TI because I grew up with my father being a military training instructor," he said. "The same thing with Jason -- he was around this environment when I was an MTI."
Jason, who joined the Air Force in 2001, arrived here after deciding the time was right to apply for a military training instructor position. He was certified as an MTI in June.
Perhaps it was destiny calling when Paxton was assigned to the 323rd TRS. The squadron is housed in the same recruit housing and training building where his father spent six years in the MTI corps. But that's not the only connection. Jack Paxton Jr. was the MTI for his son's current supervisor.
So when the three generations of Paxtons gathered at the squadron recently, it was like coming home.
"Jason runs into people all the time who knew me," the sergeant’s father said. "When I see what Jason's going through, it brings me back. And every time I walk in this building, it's like nothing's changed.
"I saw some trainees at parade rest [while I was coming in], and I almost yelled at them," he added with a laugh.
But his personality and that of his father suggest otherwise.
"Anybody who meets Dad and Grandpa knows they are very, very laid back -– big time," Paxton said. "Dad never brought it home. And if I didn't know, I'd have never thought Grandpa was a TI."
His father quickly agreed about his own father. "People look at Dad as the nicest guy in the world," he said.
The sergeant’s grandfather said he enjoyed being an instructor and remembers his time here.
"I still go back to the TI business in my dreams,” he said. “It never leaves you. Sometimes I wake up marching, 'Hut, two, three, four.' Some of it is TI and [some is from Vietnam experiences]."
All three Paxtons agree job satisfaction far outweighs the long hours and demands involved in being a military training instructor.
"Three generations of TIs … says something about the career field," Jack Paxton Jr. said. "I'd do it all over again. This was by far the best job I ever had."