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Dad shares last deployment with son, son-in-law

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Marelise Wood
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Members of the military commonly refer to each other as family. They share experiences that most times can't be truly understood by those who haven't lived them. Often these experiences are forged in places far from home where mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children and other loved ones can only be seen on the screen of some electronic device, or not at all.

For three members of the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, the only thing standing between them and a family member is shift change.

Senior Master Sgt. Steven Buchwald, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is the lead production superintendent for the C-130 Aircraft Maintenance Unit. He, his son and his son-in-law are members of the 107th Airlift Wing, Air National Guard, and are deployed here together from Niagara Falls, N.Y.

As members of the 386 EMXG, dad is responsible for the C-130 personnel and flying schedule, Travis, a senior airman, is a crew chief and ensures the aircraft are ready for flight and repairs them when necessary. Son-in-law, Senior Airman Hans Hock, an aircrew ground equipment mechanic in the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, keeps the machinery and tools supporting the aircraft in working order.

For the senior Buchwald, deployments are nothing new, this being his 18th, but being deployed with his family is a whole new experience. Family and staying close to his roots have always been important to him.

At the beginning of his military career, Steven spent four years on active duty as a crew chief. During that time he was assigned to a base in England and subsequently one in New Mexico. By the time he was in New Mexico, he had married his hometown sweetheart and they had already had their first of three children. He began exploring the option of getting stationed closer to home and after his attempts were unsuccessful, the Lockport, N.Y., native chose to join the Air National Guard and move back to his home state.

"I took mechanics in school; if you could tear it apart, I did," said Steven. "When I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, mechanics was my top score and I was told I could pick any job. They told me I could work on airplanes and that sounded cool so that's what I did."

Steven's time as a crew chief and his passion for his job made an impression on his son Travis who frequently went to work with him. It was really no surprise that Steven's son is now also a crew chief.

"It was basically something I grew up doing," said the younger Buchwald. "For as long as I can remember, I was out in the barn working on cars, anything else you can think of--four-wheel motorcycles, tractors; it just seemed right."

But for Hock, Buchwald's son-in-law, the decision to join the military was not such a foregone conclusion.

Hock met Milissa Buchwald during his freshman year in college. They began dating and he had his first encounter with the military.

"She [Milissa] wasn't shy about telling everybody that her dad was in the military," said Hock. "The first time I went to her house, he did the dad thing; he came out in his uniform on the porch and I was like, 'I am not getting out of the car. That was a pretty scary thing.'"

However, Hock was not scared off. The pair kept dating and got married in 2010.

By then, Hock had graduated college and was working odd jobs. His wife had begun a teaching career and he wanted something steadier so he could contribute more to his household. His father-in-law broached the subject of joining the military.

"I wasn't so sure," said Hock. "I didn't want to be away from home, I didn't want to do the whole back and forth thing, but then I looked into the Guard and Reserve side and I thought, this could actually be pretty nice. I was talking to a recruiter for a couple months and he assured me it would work out. It didn't work out the way he said, but it has worked out."

It's been almost three years later and here he is on his first deployment, sharing the experience with his brother-in-law and father-in-law.

"I knew my brother-in-law was coming and that was one of the biggest reasons I was going to do it because there would be somebody here who I already knew," said Hock. "Then we found out just before we left that my father-in-law was going to come too."

Steven, who is on his last deployment before he retires after 32 years of service, is especially proud to be here with his family.

This is my last deployment, I'm retiring in December and it's neat to be here with the two boys," he said. "His [Travis'] first deployment was as a third country national escort, so this is his first deployment doing his real job. This is my last and their first--hand-off!"