87 APS Airman works with uncle during AT

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joel McCullough
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Jaime Mellenkamp performed his annual tour in February with the 87th Aerial Port Squadron from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.


Besides being in the exotic location of Oahu, Hawaii, this trip was special for Sergeant Mellenkamp because he has a family member who works on base, in the same unit he was augmenting. Mellenkamp’s uncle, Chief Master Sgt. William Villarreal, is the superintendent of the 48th APS.


Many people who join the military have someone who influences their decision, whether it’s a family member, a friend of the family, or just a friend. Villarreal is that influence for Mellenkamp.


“He is the reason I joined the Air Force. He’s been a mentor,” said Mellenkamp.


Other than his great grandfather, Sergeant Mellenkamp had no other family member who chose a military career. At a young age he was introduced to the Air Force life through his aunt’s husband, Villarreal.


When asked how the chief influenced his choice of a military career, Mellenkamp responded, “I always thought it was cool. Growing up that was always in the back of my mind, maybe I could do that.”


While deciding to join the military, the sergeant originally swayed toward the Army.


“I almost joined the Army,” said Mellenkamp. “He (Villarreal) told me to do what I wanted to do, but he explained to me the benefits of the Air Force.”


He joined with the intent of working closely with aircraft, either a mechanic or a loadmaster. Neither ended up working out for him, so he consulted his uncle. Chief Villarreal recommended an aerial port job and Mellenkamp took the advice.


“I am very proud that my nephew is a ‘Port Dawg’,” said Villarreal. “I have known him since he was 6 years old. To see him join the Air Force and then choose this career field is just too cool.”


“He's that quiet, get it done kind of guy,” said the chief while explaining what kind of person his nephew is. “At the same time he's always looking for the next big thing.”


Sergeant Mellenkamp was on active duty like his uncle but eventually used the Palace Chase Program to switch to the Air Force Reserve. He has been with the 445th Airlift Wing for approximately seven years.


This is not the first time the two have crossed Air Force paths. The sergeant commented on the recent experience of them working together, “How often do you get work alongside a family member in the Air Force? I am proud and it’s cool that I get to be here at his unit,” added the sergeant.


Both shared a sense of pride not only in the fact that they are both Air Force members, but that they work in the same career field. One being proud in his family member’s accomplishments and getting work alongside him; the other being able to see his nephew making great life choices and progressing through a wonderful career.