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    Airman continues service and family legacy

    Airman continues service and family legacy

    Courtesy Photo | SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich.-- John Bentz (right) retired in 1969 as the...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Chelsea FitzPatrick 

    127th Wing Public Affairs

    SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich.— A decision made by his pregnant mother, likely saved the life of a toddler and future Michigan Guardsman.
    “The only reason I’m probably still alive is because my Mom was pregnant with my brother at the time,” Joseph Peelish speculated about his experience on August 28, 1988 as a toddler-aged spectator at the Ramstein Air Show. “It was hot and she was very pregnant so she didn’t want to take the long walk to get closer to the front of the crowd.”
    Her fatigue likely saved her and her two sons, when three Italian fighter jets collided mid-air causing one of the most significant airshow catastrophes in modern history-- occurred only yards from where Peelish and his mom stood, taking the lives of 70 people and injuring approximately 500 more.
    Peelish, a heavy mobile equipment inspector with the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s vehicle maintenance team, is neither the first, nor the second generation member of his family to serve at Selfridge. He’s one of three family members over four generations to serve at the Michigan air base, and he wants to share the skills and knowledge he’s gained.
    “After 17 years, with the skill-level I’ve earned, you’re considered a jack of all trades,” Peelish said. “Before I retire, I want to share my knowledge with new Airmen.”
    In December 2003, Peelish enlisted in the Michigan National Guard at age 19. Attending community college hadn’t been working well for him due to the financial burden and he knew he wanted to do something different with his life. At the time, his father was serving as a master sergeant in the 127th Communications Squadron here, after an active duty career.
    “I started running with the wrong crowd,” Peelish said. “My Dad served and I knew it was a solid career path, so I enlisted and was using the tuition assistance at the community college to learn how to work on trucks.”
    The part-time commitment he signed up for with his Air National Guard enlistment meant that after his initial entry training of basic military and technical training, Peelish began to serve one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
    “I’ve always been good at tinkering with cars, so I decided to make it a career,” Peelish said.
    In 2003 Peelish did just that when he began working a fulltime civilian position in the unit and for the first half of his career, he specialized in fixing and maintaining fire trucks, snow plows and deicing trucks.
    In addition to the state tuition assistance benefit, Peelish earned the G.I. Bill education benefit, which afforded his wife the opportunity to complete her undergraduate education in the nursing field.
    “We have two young children. My ability to work while she attended school meant she could stay home with our kids,” Peelish said. “Now that my Guard career is closing in on 20 years, I feel I can take a step back now that she will be working fulltime.”
    Aside from the education benefits, Peelish says his favorite part of serving in the military is the travel and meeting new people. His last deployment was a six-month long tour to Qatar between 2017 and 2018. He’s also served shorter-term deployments to countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait and travelled for temporary duty missions all over the world. More recent examples include Alaska and the Virgin Islands.
    “The best part about serving is meeting a lot of interesting people because you get to travel. I’ve got friends all over,” Peelish said. “I’ve also been able to help a lot of people.”
    After gaining 17 years of experience with the 127th Wing at Selfridge as a uniformed Airman, he transferred his drill-status guardsman position to the 110th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, earlier this year. He wanted to broaden his perspective and train new Airmen in his specialized skillset.
    “There’s a lot to our job and there’s a lot of stuff that can kill you,” Peelish said. “Everything is heavy, sharp or dangerous and some of the new Airmen have no experience in a vehicle shop environment.”
    Peelish’s father retired as a master sergeant from Selfridge in 2007. His great-grandfather, John Bentz, retired as the supervisor of Selfridge’s boiler and steam plant in 1969. In between, he and both his siblings, a brother and sister, enlisted and have served. With the family legacy strong here, Peelish just wants to do a good job and share his wealth of knowledge to better the next generation of incoming Airmen here.
    “I think my grandfathers would be proud,” Peelish said.



    Date Taken: 08.17.2021
    Date Posted: 08.17.2021 10:15
    Story ID: 403231

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