ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Many Airmen have passed through Mobility's Hometown since its activation as a multi-engine flight training school in 1943, the majority of whom regard Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma as a temporary stop for a small time in their careers. For some, however, Altus becomes much more than a short-term landing place.
Such is the case for Master Sgt. Thomas Kessler, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron Vehicle Management Flight superintendent, and his family: his wife Desiree, and his two daughters Dominique and Hayden.
Thomas Kessler was born in Alzey, Germany, in 1981. After his family moved to the U.S. in 1993, he finished school and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Throughout his career he’s traveled around the world, experiencing a plethora of communities and cultures. The Kessler family could’ve settled in any one of those places, but something about Altus felt special to them.
“We did the big towns ... we did L.A., California, Little Rock, Arkansas, Europe, we've kind of done everything,” Thomas Kessler said. “Altus grew on us. We like how close everything is and we love the people here. Out here, everybody helps everybody.”
Once the family decided to settle here, they sold the house they’d lived in since they arrived at Altus in July of 2016, and moved into their dream home.
Right after moving in, the family knew they wanted animals. Little did they know, what started out as two goats would turn into 1AB Ranch: home to more than 25 animals and counting.
“After the goats we got pigs, then a donkey … and it just kind of grew,” Thomas Kessler said. “As we expanded our fences, the animals kept growing. There was one pregnancy after another."
Recognizing the joy their animals brought to their lives, the Kesslers decided one day to bring a few baby goats into their workcenter for other members of their unit to enjoy.
“Everyone who had a chance to meet the goats and play around with them were smiling,” Thomas Kessler said. “Everyone in our flight enjoyed it and they kept asking me to bring them back. After that, all the other flights were interested, so I brought them to those flights and they played around for a little bit. It just kept on growing and growing. Now if somebody wants me to bring them, I’ll bring them.”
While the Kesslers have used 1AB Ranch to serve the community and their Air Force family, their main goal is to use their experiences to strengthen the bond and connection of their immediate family.
“By living this lifestyle, we’re constantly staying busy with the animals, building something or learning something. It keeps us off our phones and brings us closer as a family,” Desiree Kessler said. “To see the excitement on the kids' faces when we have new babies makes it all worth it. The girls jump up, run outside, they get so excited. Those little happy moments bring us together.”
From hatching ducklings from eggs to building new enclosures for their animals, the Kesslers hope their work on 1AB Ranch establishes a family legacy they can be proud of for years to come.
“My idea is, in 10 to 20 years when the girls come back with their families, they can say, 'Hey, we built this,’” Thomas Kessler said. “We really enjoy doing this as a family.”