Airman reflects on 26 years of service

Todd Kern as a trainee during Basic Military Training. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern as a trainee during Basic Military Training. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern served as a technical training school instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, from 1998 to 2002. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern served as a technical training school instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, from 1998 to 2002. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern in March of 1991 while serving a deployment to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern in March of 1991 while serving a deployment to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern in grade school. (Courtesy photo)

Todd Kern in grade school. (Courtesy photo)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Todd Kern, a young farm boy in Wisconsin, figured he was going nowhere.

As a senior in high school, he spoke to an Air Force recruiter and he decided he wanted to do something better with his life.

Kern's initial goal was to do four years in the Air Force and then get out and go back home. After spending time in England at his first duty station, he wanted more.

"I was hooked," said Kern, adding that he just felt the need to continue to serve.

Kern, now a senior master sergeant and the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, is preparing to close out his career after 26 years of service.

Early on, his older brother, who was an explosive ordnance disposal technician in the Marine Corps, drove his passion for serving in the military. Kern and his brother would always interact with each other while his brother was in service.

"I liked when he came back after training or an assignment while I was still home," Kern reflected. "He would visit with me in uniform and I always thought that was pretty cool."

Kern's older brother would always talk about the structure of the military, the disciple he received and the sense of belonging he felt in his military family.

This, coupled with Kern's passion for the Air Force, is what drove him to become a first sergeant.

"I could talk to people and I would help them understand where they need to go or what direction they needed to take," he explained. "I kind of had a knack for it."

As a staff sergeant, Kern saw other first sergeants who were not approachable, did not follow the rules or did not do the things they were supposed to do to set the example as an Airman should. He knew he could be a better first sergeant than them.

Over the years, Kern realized he needed to break through Airman's walls to help figure out a solution to their problems. Since everything depends on so many factors, he made it his goal to help in Airmen any way possible by treating them as individuals.

Kern believes that any new Airman who comes into the Air Force should know that everything is all about perspective and attitude.

"You can look at the glass half empty or you can look at the glass half full. Attitude is how you portray your position," said Kern. "Basically, you can have a positive attitude and that, in return, gives everyone a positive attitude. Or you could have a negative attitude and it's like a plague and your section goes down."

Out of everything he has gone through during his career, Kern said he would miss the people the most.

"Hands down, I will say I will miss the people. I won't necessarily miss the traveling because I can do that on my own. I will miss the people, the camaraderie and the family atmosphere. I'll miss helping the people."

Kern's 26 years in service shaped him to be disciplined, have structure in his life and a sense of belonging with his Air Force family which will remain with him always.