BOISE, Idaho – Maj. Christopher Lavelle and his younger sister, Master Sgt. Kerry Lavelle, are known on Gowen Field as "the Lavelles." They have served on base as full-time technicians for several years and as traditional Guardsmen in the Idaho National Guard for nearly 20 years.
"It's been fun serving in the military at the same time as my family," said Christopher. "It seemed at one point that everyone on base knew who we were. They would see Kerry when she used to work in security forces at the front gate and they would see me for computer problems at the communications office."
Joining the Guard was not something they planned to do together but was something they both ended up doing to pay for school. Coming from a family with four other siblings, Christopher said his dad could not afford to send them all to college. Serving in the military was a way to receive education assistance.
"Kerry and I weren't confident in what we wanted to do in our lives or how long we would stay in the military," he said. "We both ended up serving almost 20 years and having successful careers within the Guard."
"I joined to pay for school, but I chose the Air Guard because my brother was in the Army Guard," Kerry said. "I couldn't join the same branch as him; I had to do something different."
Christopher enlisted into the Idaho Army National Guard in June 2000 as a signal operations specialist after graduating from high school in Boise. A year later, Kerry graduated from the same high school and enlisted into the Idaho Air National Guard as a security forces Airman.
After returning from training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Christopher deployed to Bosnia with the 183rd Aviation Regiment in 2002. He later joined the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team and deployed to Iraq in 2004. The next year, he reenlisted and started work as a full-time technician for the Idaho Army National Guard.
He served nine years as an enlisted Guardsman, became a sergeant, enrolled in officer candidate school and commissioned as a signal officer in 2008. The same year, Christopher earned bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and political science from Boise State University.
"It took a long time for me to finish school between two deployments," said Christopher. "I reenlisted because I wasn't done with what I started and wanted to complete school. I later decided that if I was going to stay in, I wanted to commission."
Kerry and her younger sister, Caitlin, who also served in the Idaho Army National Guard from 2004 to 2011, attended Christopher's commissioning ceremony on Gowen Field.
"We were really proud of him," Kerry said. "We both raced to the stage wanting to be the first to salute him, but Caitlin pulled off my hat to slow me down and ended up winning."
In 2010, Christopher deployed again to Iraq as a platoon leader with the 148th Field Artillery Battalion. Since returning, he has served in various positions in the Guard, including company commander and signal officer for both a battalion and brigade staff.
He now works as a full-time technician and data processing manager for the United States Property and Fiscal Office and serves part time as a traditional Guardsman and the staff communications officer for Joint Force Headquarters-Idaho.
When Kerry went to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic military training in 2002, Christopher stayed in touch through letters.
"I remember my brother sent me postcards and pictures," Kerry recalled. "He was in Salt Lake doing security for the Olympics and sent me a picture of him standing on his bunk with the bed all messed up. He joked, 'How is basic training going? Good thing you are learning how to make a bed.'"
Kerry returned home in June 2002 and was activated, along with most of the 124th Security Forces Squadron, to provide increased security on Gowen Field after 9/11. She attended school and served intermittently on active duty orders as part of security forces on Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Force Base until reenlisting in 2007.
"I decided last minute to stay in because the military was the one consistent thing in my life," said Kerry. "I figured it would be a good decision, and it was."
Kerry deployed to Saudi Arabia for six months with the 124th Security Forces Squadron in 2008. In 2010, she earned a social sciences degree in general studies from Boise State University and three years later left for Korea.
"I wanted to do something different just for a little while," said Kerry. "I decided to travel to Korea and teach English for two years. It was fabulous. I also met my husband there, who laughs when I tell people he's my favorite souvenir."
Kerry returned home in 2015 and continued work in security forces until becoming the first sergeant for the wing's logistics readiness squadron in 2018. That same year, she started a full-time job at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2019, Kerry reenlisted for the second time in a ceremony on Gowen Field. Christopher read her oath of reenlistment.
"It was really cool that Christopher was able to reenlist me," said Kerry. "It makes me laugh thinking about how I messed up the oath because he had given me too many words at one time to repeat from memory."
Although the two siblings are only 15 months apart, Kerry said Christopher took on fatherly responsibilities at a young age while their father was sick and after he died in 2008.
"My brother has taken on a different role in our family to all of us as kind of a caretaker," said Kerry. "I'm sure at some point, my dad pulled him aside and told him to look after his family."
While their father was sick with cancer, Christopher said they had many heart-to-hearts, mostly about taking care of the family.
"He had a big concern for his family and wanted the best for his kids," said Christopher. "Out of five of us, three joined the military and two are still in. My other sisters also work in public service, so I think we have all done really well, and I know my dad would be proud of us."
Kerry works in employee labor relations at the VA's human resources office. In December, she became the first sergeant for the 124th Fighter staff.