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3rd generation Airman takes his place in the long blue line

  • Published
  • By Debbie Gildea
  • Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs
Airman Basic Patrick Couvillion, and close to 700 other young men and women, vowed Sept. 7 to support and defend the Constitution of the United States during the Air Force basic training graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas.

The moving ceremony consistently affects those who witness this inaugural event in an Airman's life. Hundreds of young people voicing their oath of enlistment in unison is a goose bump moment, but pomp and circumstance aside, it is not unusual. It happens 50 times a year.

This graduation, however, was unusual.

Airman Couvillion joined the long blue line under the proud watch of his grandfather, Air Force veteran Gaston Couvillion, who chose to delay an urgent medical procedure to ensure he could watch his son administer the oath of enlistment to his grandson.

Col. Jerry Couvillion, Air Force Personnel Center Director of Personnel Services, surprised Patrick Friday when he served as the graduation reviewing official.

Colonel Couvillion and his generation of Airmen represent the link between those who helped nurture the Air Force in its infancy - like his dad - and those who will help navigate her through the changes ahead - like his son.

"My dad, and men like him, stood at the beginning of the long blue line. They laid the cornerstone - the very foundation - of the Air Force and their contributions are immeasurable. I am proud to call him my dad," said Colonel Couvillion. "Those Airmen on the field today are the proud legacy of my dad's generation, and I am proud to welcome them to the Air Force family and call them Airmen."

Although the Air Force had been a separate service for almost a year by the time Gaston enlisted, he knew he would be an Airmen long before he became one. His role models were his brothers, most of whom served in the armed forces or other public service roles, including a radio operator at the battle of Iwo Jima, a World War II soldier in Europe, and a federal judge. But it was his Army Air Corps air traffic control brother who blazed the trail that he would follow.

Gaston, the third youngest of 12 children born and raised in Louisiana, boarded a bus for San Antonio, Texas, in 1948. There, like his older brother, he completed Air Force basic military training, and like his brother, went on to serve as a Air Force air traffic controller.

It was the rock-and-roll-rodeo days of air traffic control in America and around the world, and the need for controllers was growing. In 1952, as a staff sergeant, Gaston turned his attention to civilian endeavors, later accepting an air traffic control position with the Federal Aviation Administration in San Antonio.

Despite his Louisiana roots, San Antonio became home. There he met his bride of 54 years, the former Lily Garcia of Benavides, Texas; a Lackland clerk. Half a century and four children later, they remain an enduring example of values like family, commitment, integrity and service.

Their children - Ron, Dee Dee, Jerry and Mike - internalized those same values, especially Jerry who at 12 already knew where his future lay.

During Christmas break his 7th grade year, he spent a weekend with his older brother, Ron - an aircraft mechanic at Bergstrom Air Force Base. His brother hoisted him inside the cockpit of different aircraft and explained what he was seeing and how things work, and Jerry knew that one day he would serve too.

Jerry was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The missileer-turned-personnelist in 1992 married the former Anita Alvarez, (whose father served in the Navy) an occupational therapist originally from Pharr, Texas.

Two decades and four children later, they too have been and continue to be an enduring example of those same values their parents instilled in them. While Kristyn, Jeremy and Anthony - 16, 13 and 9 ½, are not yet old enough to act on those values, 18-year-old Patrick felt that call to action more than a year ago.

After extensive research on available programs, career fields and other service characteristics, Patrick entered the Air Force delayed enlistment program long before he graduated from Randolph High School in May.

This third generation Airmen, the newest Couvillion to take his place in the long blue line, departs JBSA-Lackland soon for technical school where he will learn the skills necessary to be a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator. He carries within him the seeds of those values passed from one Couvillion generation to the next: Family, commitment, integrity and service.

The Air Force has seen significant changes in the 64 years between Gaston's graduation ceremony and Patrick's, but some things have not changed at all. At Lackland, 50 times a year, hundreds of smart, eager young men and women still step boldly forward to take their place in the long blue line.

Go to http://www.afpc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-120906-048.pdf to read Colonel Couvillion's comments. For more information about Air Force enlistment and commissioning opportunities, go to www.airforce.com.