Flag Strengthens Bond of Air Force Father, Son
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- A simple U.S. flag. It's traveled thousands of miles, seen numerous deployments -- six to be exact -- and one stint at Air Force basic military training. Even today, it's still traveling, looking dusty and dull from all of its miles and years.
But for one Air Force father and son duo, it's more than just a simple U.S. flag; it's their symbol of family, sacrifice and service.
"It's something that can define our shared Air Force service, something we can build on together," said Master Sgt. Bryan Kiele, an Afghan avionics advisor with the 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, Kabul, Afghanistan.
Sergeant Kiele, who just passed his 21st year anniversary in the Air Force, is on his second foreign nation advisory deployment, and fifth air expeditionary force mission. This is also his final deployment of his active Air Force career.
At the same time, his son, Airman 1st Class Tyler Kiele, is deployed to the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron an air base in Southwest Asia, marking his first Air Force deployment.
Airman Kiele said joining the Air Force is something he always wanted to do.
"I've been around the Air Force my whole life, so it was an easy decision for me," said the fuels journeyman. "I liked the lifestyle as much as my dad did."
Sergeant Kiele, a Lewiston, Idaho native, spent his first 13 years at Minot Air Force Base, Minot, N.D., working on B-52 Bombers in an avionics shop. Minot was where his son was born, and surprisingly, where Airman Kiele can call his first station as well.
"It's kind of cool that my first base was my father's first base too," Airman Kiele said. "And it's nice because that's where I grew up, and it's where most of my friends are."
As Sergeant Kiele's Air Force career progressed, so did his deployment tempo, and when it was time for him to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, he chose to purchase a U.S. flag to keep with him on his deployment.
"It was my way of showing respect, and keeping a part of home with me while I was overseas," he said.
With every deployment, it became part of his routine to pack the flag. At Sergeant Kiele's side, the flag has "deployed" to England in support of OIF, the island of Diego Garcia, Iraq, and Afghanistan twice.
"When I bought (the flag), I didn't buy it with the intention of it becoming anything special or for it to go on all of my deployments, but I guess that is exactly what it has become." Sergeant Kiele said.
When Airman Kiele headed off to Air Force basic military training in 2011, Sergeant Kiele wasn't deployed at the time, so he sent the flag with his son to start his career.
"It was cool for him to pass it off to me," Airman Kiele said. "For us to pass it back and forth, it's definitely a tradition I'd like to keep going."
After Airman Kiele's technical school at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, he gave it back to his dad.
Its next destination would be Sergeant Kiele's current deployment in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he said the flag served a very important purpose.
"The flag was the centerpiece flag for a remembrance ceremony honoring nine U.S. advisors (whom) were killed in 2011," he explained. "That was a proud moment for me to know that we were able to use the flag, and that we pulled off the ceremony the right way."
With dwindling time left on Sergeant Kiele's deployment before he returns to his home unit, Det. 1, 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron in Kent, Wa., and his son just beginning his first deployment in Southwest Asia, he knew it was time to pass the flag on in order to continue the tradition.
"It means a lot to me that he's going to take the flag and continue with it," Sergeant Kiele said. "As he goes through his career with the flag, he'll assign his own importance to it all. My hope is that he continues with it, and maybe someday he'll pass it on to his kids if they choose to join."
Reflecting on his father's career and the tradition they've created, Airman Kiele said he looks forward to continuing with the flag, and plans to use his father's passion and work ethic as his model.
"My dad is a 'boss'; he run's his programs well," he said. "When my (NCO) days come, I want to follow in his footsteps."
And so the traveling flag continues, now "stationed" at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia with Airman Kiele. What started as a purchase of a simple U.S. flag has become so much more for this father and son, linking their careers together and building on their bond, one deployment at a time.