Following Dad's footsteps to Iraq

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
A father and son are both deployed here as vehicle mechanics.

Senior Master Sgt. CJ Slifko, the vehicle fleet manager for the 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, said he had a tough decision to make toward the end of his six month tour: whether to approve a waiver on the deployment of his 3-level son, Airman 1st Class Ryan Slifko, a vehicle mechanic, to Iraq.

"For whatever reason, (the primary person couldn't come) I got an e-mail from Whiteman (Air Force Base, Mo.) asking for a waiver on a 3-level," Sergeant Slifko said. "The very last name on there was for my son. It was probably the hardest e-mail I got to answer while I was here, having to approve or disapprove whether or not he could come."

Sergeant Slifko turned to the paperwork to decide whether Airman Slifko should deploy.

"I had 3-levels on the deployment I'm on," the sergeant said. "I pretty much took their records and what their supervision said and laid that next to what his supervision said, and left it strictly at that, and gave my recommendation to my commander."

Six weeks later, Airman Slifko was on his way to his first deployment. He was met by his Dad at the military passenger terminal here.

"It was a good thing and a bad thing ... everybody knows my Dad is here, knows we're father and son, so I'm going to get picked on about it." Airman Slifko said. "I guess it's a good thing because it's a deployed location so it's kind of nice having someone over here right now."

Sergeant Slifko said he had the same thoughts on meeting his son here, especially on the ribbing he will surely get.

He said he was even approved to stay a few extra weeks to see his son get in.

"I think there's probably some good and bad to that actually," he said. "I was really hesitant about even staying. Just because he is a young Airman, it is his first deployment and I didn't want him to have to listen to, 'your Dad this, and your Dad that' for the entire deployment. But by the same token, I'm glad I got to see him. I'm looking forward to maybe spending a couple hours with him before I get on the plane out of here, when we're both off duty."

Airman Slifko grew up working on cars with his Dad, and he even got a car before he could drive it. When he was 11 years old, he spotted the car for one of his Dad's friends.

"My friend went out and bought it," Sergeant Slifko said. "Ryan had been in love with it ever since. When he turned 14, he actually saved enough money to buy the car back. He's done everything on it himself with a little bit of help."

"We've actually done all of it together," Airman Slifko said. "First thing we did was replace the roof on it. It was rusted pretty bad, so we cut the whole roof off of it and put a new roof on it. We went out and bought another car, cut the roof off of that one and put it on there. We also put a new engine in it."

Airman Slifko likes working on his personal car because it gives him the opportunity to get his creative juices flowing, where in his job he has to stick to the technical order and everything has to go back to the way it was.

"You never know what happens there, and you can kind of do what you want to it," he said. "If you don't like it, scrap it, do it over again. It's not like here, where everything's got to be back how it was. It's kind of nice to be able to do things your own way."

Doing things his own way on cars with his Dad was something he loved, and with the combination of his whole family being in the military, a bad economy and no luck finding a job, Airman Slifko turned to the Air Force and lucked into his father's career field.

"(It was) sheer luck," Sergeant Slifko said. "When he went to the recruiter, he actually tried to get this job guaranteed and it didn't work out. He ended up going in open mechanical, and he was sure he was going to get it. Sure as anything, four out of the five jobs, I think that they offered him, ended up being in this career field. So he got what he wanted."

Airmen Slifko did get what he wanted, which may turn out to be more than something to get by with until the economy picks up. He plans on making a career of the Air Force and he aims to pass his Dad, who hopes to make chief and stay in a little longer.

"I'm very proud of him in every way," Sergeant Slifko said. "It's kind of tough. I have a lot of respect for the fact that he's doing it. It's hard enough to be in our career field. And it has to be really hard on him to have a dad that's a senior that he has to follow around everywhere he goes, but I'm very proud of him."