PLAINFIELD, IL (06/10/2011)(readMedia)-- Military flying is in the blood of the Kephart family. Illinois Army National Guard Capt. Peter Kephart of Plainfield is a fourth generation military aviator. His father retired from the Army in 1998 as a chief warrant officer (4). His grandfather retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel. His great-grandfather also retired from the military. Kephart also has an uncle who is a retired colonel from the Air Force and another uncle who retired as a chief warrant officer (3) from the Army. All of the Kephart servicemembers spent their careers as aviators.
Peter, the commander of Company B, 106th Aviation in Chicago, said the family ties to the military made the decision for him to join the Illinois Army National Guard easy.
"Being raised by a chief warrant officer (4), it was a foregone conclusion," Peter said. "I respected his passion and mastery of the aviation craft and actively pursued the military in order to emulate his success and tradition."
Peter's father, Marcus Kephart of Thayer, Kan., who also served with the Illinois Army National Guard's Company B, 106th Aviation in Chicago, was a UH-1 Huey pilot in Vietnam. He recently concluded a 40-year career as an aviator retiring from the Army in 1998 and retiring from United Airlines as a Boeing 767 captain in 2008. Marcus said it was his dad who gave him advice that made him so successful.
"I clawed my way up from the bottom, taking my dad's advice," Marcus said. "He told me to take the jobs nobody else wants and eventually you will have the job everybody else wants. I was happy to retire as a captain flying Boeing 767s."
Marcus said he made up his mind that he would join the military before he was in kindergarten. He said it was family tradition and a heritage of aviators who influenced his interest in the military.
"I wanted to serve my country like my father did," Marcus said. "My father flew B-17s in World War II and his father flew balloons in World War I. My great uncle also fought in the Civil War."
While an aviation career was in the air, Marcus and Peter both said no one pushed them to join the military or fly an aircraft. Their biggest motivator to be successful was themselves.
"There is only self-induced pressure," Marcus said. "Every flight you try to make your best. After 40 years and 27,000 plus hours, I'm still looking for the perfect flight."
Peter admits he is very competitive and works hard to be the best.
"Self preservation is one hell of a motivating factor," Peter said. "Army aviators are generally type-A personalities. Inherent to that, they possess the self motivation and discipline required to be successful aviators."
Peter and Marcus have both deployed overseas during their military careers. During his 15-year career, Peter has deployed once, serving in Kosovo in 2008. During a career that spanned four decades, Marcus deployed to Southeast Asia in 1971 and served various duties in Germany, Honduras and Panama. He was also activated to support the relief effort during the 1993 floods.
The most influential person in many peoples' lives is their parents. Peter and Marcus both admit their fathers helped mold them into the person they are today.
"The best career advice I received from my father, is the same advice he received from his father: Live to retirement," Peter recalled. "As your career as an aviator progresses, that phrase commands greater meaning. Living to retirement means that you have successfully accomplished all of your missions. It means that you did your job right."
Photo 1: Photo submitted by Capt. Peter Kephart/ Capt. Peter Kephart of Plainfield (right), commander Company B, 106th Aviation in Chicago and his father Marcus Kephart of Thayer, Kan., a retired UH-1 Huey pilot in Vietnam stand next to a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Peter is a fourth generation Army aviator who has been with the Illinois Army National Guard since 1996. Peter's father retired from the Army in 1998 as a chief warrant officer (4). Both follow in the footsteps of family members that flew aircraft as part of their military career.
Photo 2: Photo submitted by Capt. Peter Kephart/ Retired Chief Warrant Officer (4) Marcus Kephart of Thayer, Kan., served in Vietnam in 1971. Kephart was a member of the Illinois Army National Guard's Company B, 106th Aviation in Chicago. He was a UH-1 Huey pilot who followed in his father and grandfather's wings as an Army aviator.
Photo 3: Photo submitted by Capt. Peter Kephart/ Capt. Peter Kephart of Plainfield, commander of Company B, 106th Aviation in Chicago, is a fourth generator Army aviator. His father served in Vietnam and his grandfather and great-grandfather were also members of the military aviation community.
Story by Mike Chrisman, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office