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Not just a Guard family, but a Total Force family

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah Tancer
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- The Kleive family is back in AFCENT news since their last deployment in 2018. This time they’re not only representing the 148th Fighter Wing, but the entirety of the U.S. Air National Guard and what it brings to the Ninth Air Force’s Total Force family.

Out of the 13 Guardsmen family units stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base the Kleive family is the largest. The father-daughter duo documented in the past, Master Sgt. Scott and Staff Sgt. Kalei Kleive, brought Staff Sgt. Devin Kleive, with them this time to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“It was a little like a domino effect,” said Kalei, a plans and scheduling manager with the 179th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. “My dad learned first, then soon after I found out I was going and then Devin found out. Family trip to the desert, that's what we decided.”

The 148th FW out of Duluth, Minnesota, or the 179th EFS, as it's currently known in the Southwest Asia theater, operates the Block 50 F-16CM Fighting Falcon, one of the newest models in the U.S. Air Force fleet. Like its nickname “Viper” implies, the F-16 packs a fast and nasty bite for anyone unwise enough to provoke it.

Scott, a crew chief with the 179th EFS, is a general systems mechanic and oversees all maintenance, related to the aircraft. Kalei manages both aircraft maintenance and engine maintenance, and Devin, a munitions systems specialist, loads munitions and provides general maintenance to weapon-related systems. Together they check the viper's scales, schedule its vet visits and sharpen its fangs, in order to keep it mission-ready.

Besides the air power assets, the Kleive family is also a perfect example of the two different lifestyles common in the ANG but foreign to most active-duty Airmen - full-time students and older “non-traditional” Airmen.

Both Kalei and Devin, like many younger Citizen Airmen, are full-time college students. They give the Guard a direct line to understanding and incorporating the new and ever-advancing technologies, practices and theories of the civilian sector. Whereas the youth of the active side often don't have the time or single location stability to pursue hands-on or in-person education.

“We have students that are unique to the guard outside of what you see on the active side,” said Scott. “While they’re serving their commitment to the Air National Guard, they’re working towards their educational goals. We also have an older component, like myself, that's here. We have members here that have worked the F-16 airframe for 32 years that are still working maintenance. I don’t think you’d ever see that on the active side.”

Representing the older guardsmen generations, Scott provides the National Guard a source of continuity, life wisdom and long honed expertise.

All together the Kleives, like other Citizen Airmen being half civilian and half service-member, bring the unique opportunity of integrating and advancing their two lives, augmenting the skills of one to better accomplish the other.

“It's great that you can get civilian experience and be in the guard at the same time,” said Kalei. “It’s like building external points in your resume and getting qualifications outside of what you know in the military.”

The Guard’s family operating style nurtures these lifestyles and the transition between the two, allowing for an easier flow of innovation, support and personal life exploration.

However, starting around the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the line has all but faded between active and guard, as it is now part of and deployable with, the Total Force.

“The new Guard is an active force,” said Scott. “In my early term in the 90’s this didn’t exist. There was no deploying; not until 9/11. Now, many of these members that are here on this trip have deployed six, seven maybe eight times to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc. So the Guard and Reserve have become in time an active component of the military.

In this era of total force integration, the Kleive family and the 148th FW are carrying their weight having served local interests with COVID-19 aid; state interests with civil unrest in Minneapolis–Saint Paul; federal interests with Operation Allies Welcome and global interests deploying as the 179th EFS.

“I think the Air Force is understanding the unique contributions the guard can bring today, that we are a family, we travel as a unit and we’re going to get the job done when we get there,” said Kalei.

Claiming a full 24 hours quicker response time than its federal active and reserve counterparts, states, “No matter where in the world conflict arises or crises erupts, the Air Guard is able to mobilize and respond within 48 hours.” That could in part be due to the one-location career and family-style camaraderie within the guard.

“Although I haven't been in long I've been working and training with these people for the last three and a half years to prepare for where we are now,” said Devin. “Although I'm younger, things go a lot smoother because you already have experience doing things with the other people you're deployed with.”

“You get to know everybody's systems and processes, so it really helps in quickly and successfully accomplishing our missions,” adds Kalei.

A strong source of morale and mental support for Airmen are their families whether at home or abroad. Without that support, anxiety can set in like a disease and jeopardize overall USCENTCOM capabilities. The family’s matriarch and brother back home can be afforded no less support.

“She is a very proud, patient and loving mom,” said Kalei. “She totally understands what we are doing here and supports us, but I am happy we have another brother to watch out for her too, and of course there is a ton of support from the 148th members back home.”

Having deployed before and happy to be doing it again, Kalei summarized her experience at PSAB saying, “I’m really proud to be here with my brother and dad, and couldn't have asked for a better guard family to be deployed with.”

For more on Scott and Kalei Kleive’s past deployment read “Like father, like daughter” published June 17, 2018, by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable, 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs: