Circle of life: Father, son reconnect at Sheppard, graduate on same day

  • Published
  • By John Ingle
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Brett and Tyler Pier agreed they lost opportunities in earlier years to connect like a father and son should. Missed high school football games, dances and just spending time together are a few of the moments that lacked one or the other because of deployments, divorce and other commitments.

But, it's funny how life comes about full circle. Master Sgt. Brett Pier, 47, and Airman Brett Pier, 19, are set to complete a rarity here, Dec. 20, when they both graduate from technical training school. More importantly, they've rekindled that father-son relationship with thankfulness for another opportunity.

"This has been one of the closest times we've had together," said Airman Pier, an Airman in Training at the 361st Training Squadron's egress course.

The elder Pier, a cable and antenna retrainee at the 364th TRS, said this has been the highest point of his 28-year career in the Illinois Air National Guard.

"To be able to be TDY and spend it with my son, that's the best time that I've had," he said.

Different journeys, same path
Sergeant Pier had a decision to make in 2006 when the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations targeted the mission of the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield, Ill. His goal of reaching the rank of chief master sergeant was in jeopardy because his career field at the time -- metal technician -- didn't have projections to that rank.

After discussing the options with his wife, Wendi, a chief master sergeant at the 183rd FW's military personnel flight, Sergeant Pier said he decided to look for a job in the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron at the same location. It was a position in the communications section of the squadron.

"With (Wendi's) support, I put in for this full-time technician job and got it," he said. "Part of that was I needed to come down here for tech school."

Not long after that decision, Airman Pier decided it was time for him to follow in his father's footsteps in the ANG. 

His original choice as a chaplain assistant didn't pan out, so the younger Pier had to re-evaluate what he wanted to do. He considered the same career field as his father, but rules regarding family members in the same chain of command prevented that selection.

When he finally chose to pursue a career in egress systems, he never thought about the opportunity of training at the same base at the same time as his father. His father agreed.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I had no idea when I signed up for this that my son would be attending school here, (too)."

School's in session
Just days before Airman Pier left for technical training in October, the Piers realized they would be at the same place at the same time. That alone was enough to spark excitement between the father and son.

"I thought it was great," Sergeant Pier said. "I knew he'd be a pipeline student and I was hoping we could work it out to where we'd get to spend some time together."

Although there are rules regarding the intermingling of Airmen in Training and TDY personnel, special concessions were made given the father-son relationship -- they were allowed to interact and spend down time together.

"We probably got to hang out here a lot more than we did at home," Airman Pier said.

The Piers had an opportunity to share their educational experiences with each other while here, but they've learned more than just their technical trade. They've learned about each other.

Airman Pier said he's learned that his father is a very patient, but persistent man. He said he's also easy going, but disciplined.

Sergeant Pier said he received confirmation from military training manager reports of a trait that he's seen in his son for years -- his ability to adapt to any situation.

"That made me very, very proud," he said with a smile. "That's something I noticed from him since he was a child."

No more teachers, no more books
It's not certain that the Piers will make history Dec. 20 when they graduate within hours of each other, but having a father and son graduate the same day at Sheppard is rare.

"It's not every day you get to see your dad graduate from something like that," Airman Pier said. "Usually you pass that up when get to this age."

But not this time. The training squadrons are making efforts to make sure Airman Pier will be in attendance when his father graduates. His father will do the same just a few hours later.

Although the master sergeant is looking forward to both graduations, it's the event following the ceremonies that he said he is looking forward to.

"What I'm really looking forward to is the 11-hour drive home," Sergeant Pier said. "That will give us an opportunity to talk about a lot of things."

Airman Pier said the last couple months hold a special meaning for him, a time when a father and son were able to reconnect and form a relationship stronger than ever before. The future, he said, will prove to be more of the same.

It's funny how life comes full circle.