Keeping the family tradition alive

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chance Babin
  • Air Force Reserve Recruiting

A typically reliable source for recruiting has long been recruiting people who have a family history of military service.

Pentagon data showed in 2016 that 80 percent of recent troops came from a family where at least one parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling or cousin has also worn their nation’s uniform.

That statistic is changing as the number of people joining less often have a family member that has served and more emphasis is placed on non-family member recruiting.

That was not the case for Garren “Ridge” Belflower who did his commissioning oath, April 22 at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Belflower’s grandfather, 92-year old retired United States Navy Commander Ramon Carpenter conducted his oath and he was joined by generations of family that have served as well.

Carpenter was in the Navy for 24 years having served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Carpenter and his brother served at the same time as their father during WWII.

“I came from a Navy family. My uncle I were the only ones who were regular and the rest served during WWII,” Carpenter said. “At the end of WWII I had a choice. I wanted to be an aviator, so I stayed in and from there on out it was just the only way to go.”

During his service, Carpenter said he flew fighters in WWII. In 1953, he shifted to helicopters and flew them all the way to retirement.

For Belflower, who will be a maintenance officer at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, having his grandfather do his oath was a no brainer.

“It was remarkable,” Belflower said. “He’s always been such a great example. He always engages you in depth and makes you expand your thinking and he’s such a great role model with his life story. And having him at his age with all his wisdom is such a great thing to have in the family. It’s was one of the best moments of my life.”

Belflower’s family has a long tradition of military service. His great grandfather served in the Army, his other grandfather was in the Marine Corps, his father and step dad served in the Air force and his younger brother is currently in the Navy. Additionally, his father-in law is a general in the Air Force Reserve.

“My father-in-law has been a great role model,” Belflower said. “It helps when you wife has grown up military and knows what you are about to get into.”

For Belflower’s father, Shannon Belflower, who served in the Air Force Reserve, having his son follow the family tradition is an exciting time and an expected occurrence.

“It’s great. We have a long lineage of military background. I grew up in a military heritage. It was just what we were supposed to do,” he said. “I’m very proud. It’s the second time in the past few months I have seen a son sworn in, because my youngest son just went into the Navy.”

Master Sgt. Christopher Barber, an officer accessions recruiter, assigned to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, was Belflower’s recruiter.

“One of the fascinating things about being a recruiter and meeting family members who have served in any branch of service is to hear their stories,” Barber said. “It is very interesting to see how times have changed, not just in the world, but more so in our military. Today’s military is far more advanced, but the older generations fought and served with courage that is unprecedented. You can see the pride in their eyes as well as the haunting memories of fierce combat.”

Beyond the interesting stories Barber hears, he is proud to be part of continuing their tradition and shaping tomorrow’s military, a combat-ready total force.

“It is a great honor to be involved in building our next generation of defense. The fact that those we recruit for the Reserve are often dual hatted is amazing,” Barber said. “Many of the veterans I encounter tell stories of the draft and today we have an all-volunteer force. The ever changing world we live in has constant struggles, but the love for this country runs deep as does the pride of service. It doesn’t matter if it’s Air Guard, Reserve or Active duty, we all live the Core Values. Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.”

Belfower’s father summed up his pride for his son joining the Reserve and having his father-in law conduct the oath.

“That was great. It couldn’t be any better than to have a family member swear my son in,” he said. “It was a real proud moment for him and all of us. I’m looking forward to supporting my boys in the military and having them support all of us and have our backs.”