SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Some reasons people join the military are to serve their country, make a difference, earn educational benefits, and because it's a family tradition.
For Senior Airman Christopher Balderas that family tradition began with his father's nine-year service in the Army as a Military Policeman.
His father, Roy Balderas, said he had wanted to be a police officer since he was in the 6th grade and earned the rank of staff sergeant (E-6) before leaving the service. After the military, he continued working in law enforcement and currently works as an Engineering Technician at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Greenville, Illinois.
Growing up, one of Christopher Balderas' favorite things to do was listen to his dad's stories of being a police officer in the Army. Among the many stories, his father would share his experiences working as a drill instructor and correctional counselor. It was in 1987 when his dad met his mother at Fort Riley, Kansas. His mother, Sondra Balderas, lived there because her father was an Army first sergeant (E-8).
Those stories, along with the desire for helping others and his father's encouragement, led Christopher Balderas to join the Air Force 4 ½ years ago. He graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and now serves as the NCOIC of Police Services at the 375th Security Forces Squadron.
"I like helping people. When people join the military, they have a natural instinct to want to protect people. I wanted to take that a step further by being a police officer and protecting the military members," said Christopher Balderas.
He has found success in his career such as earning the Commandant Leadership Award while attending Airman Leadership School. That award is presented to students who display all the characteristics of an effective leader. Those qualities of a leader he attributes to both parents but especially to his father, who taught him about moral and ethical dilemmas.
"The biggest thing that I've learned from my dad is to always do what you feel is right, because at the end of the day that's what really matters," he said.
For the proud father, Roy Balderas, said he enjoys hearing about his son's accomplishments and that he wants his son to continue the hard work he sees him doing.
"As a parent I am so very proud of Chris for serving our country and doing such a great job! He is happy to follow in my footsteps as a police officer. He has often told me that he could not imagine doing anything else in the military," he said.
Father and son say they feel fortunate to be located nearby as they are able to visit together often. Roy Balderas said he plans to retire at 57 after having spent more than 30 years in federal law enforcement. Christopher Balderas said he also wants to make a career out of law enforcement and hopes to stay in the military for at least 20 years and "hold as many security forces positions as possible."