Air Refueling: it's a family thing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing
"He would tell us stories about Vietnam, talk about all the crazy people he's met, the things he's done, and the places he's been to. I absolutely look up to my Papa Ted."

Airman 1st Class Kayla Whorley, 97th Training Squadron boom operator student, always looked up to her grandfather, Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) Ted Whorley, who was also a boom operator from 1970-1997.

"I was in the Air Force for 27 years and 19 days," Whorley said.

Airman Whorley recalls the rare times her "Papa Ted" came home to visit while he was in the Air Force.

"[Papa Ted] was gone a lot, but when he did get to visit, he would try to make up for the holidays that he missed," Airman Whorley said. "He would always have the best stories."

These stories inspired Airman Whorley to also join the military.

"I didn't know if I wanted to be a boom operator, but I knew I wanted to join the armed forces," Airman Whorley said. "I honestly didn't really know much about being a boom operator, but the more I learned about it the more I thought it was awesome."

"[Papa Ted] was the one who guided me to join the Air Force," Airman Whorley said. "He was ecstatic when I told him I wanted to join the Air Force."

However, becoming a boom operator wasn't something she felt obligated to do.

"It is a passion and I am proud," Airman Whorley said.

When Whorley found out his granddaughter was going to be a boom operator like him, he was excited.

"I thought it was just wonderful that she got the same job I had when I was in the Air Force," Whorley said. "She is so athletic, mature and independent--these are traits I expect out of well-rounded Airmen."

Airman Whorley often goes to her grandfather for advice.

"It is great because Papa Ted knows exactly what I am going through," Airman Whorley said.

Whorley said he feels like he's reliving his career as a boom operator.

"I've been there for her during her entire time in training," Whorley said. "It is wonderful that my granddaughter is a boom operator like I was."

"We've always been buddies," Whorley said. "Now that she's a boom operator, I feel like we connect at a different level. I remember she came home Fourth of July weekend and we were talking about her training and how it was going. It was funny because everyone else around didn't know what we were talking about."

"It's kind of like our own language now," Airman Whorley said. "It's nice to have that bond that nobody else really understands."

One thing Airman Whorley learned from Papa Ted was to enjoy the Air Force.

"He always asks me how [training] is going and if I'm having fun," Airman Whorley said. "He asks me if I'm serious about what I'm doing, but at the same time if I'm all work and no play then I'm doing it for nothing."

Her grandfather has a great influence on her career, Airman Whorley said.

"He is a great mentor, but he's my Papa Ted first and I love him to death," Airman Whorley said.