The power of family

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- As the saying goes, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Tech. Sgt. Matthew Turner, NCO in charge of the 391st Fighter Squadron medical element, grew up under the watchful eye of a security forces chief master sergeant and proved just that. Turner has developed into the epitome of what the enlisted performance report defines as, "truly among the best."

Turner explained growing up in a military household can have its difficulties, especially your dad is a security forces chief. But for Turner, it paved the way for him to serve.

"He instilled the work ethic in me," said Turner. "I'm old now and I still think back to my childhood and it still drives me."

Turner learned early not to take his father for granted. Once, as a teenager, he "borrowed" golf carts with his friends to joy-ride around the base golf course. He experienced first-hand what the wrath of a chief meant.

"I made them dig [sand] bunkers by hand for a while," laughed Charles E. Turner, Turner's dad.

This wouldn't be the first--or the last--mistake turner would make as a child, but certainly a lesson he would take with him for the rest of his life.

Joining the military was never much of a debate, just a matter of what branch of service to join.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Charles E. Turner, and his son, U.S. Army Private Jeff Leineweber, pose for a photo in their uniforms in 1991. Turner provided advice and inspiration to his other son, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Turner, as Matthew progressed through his career. (Courtesy Photo) "My grandfather served in the Army, and Dad served 30 years in the Air Force," he said.

Even after his father retired, his family continued to live in military communities. His dad was hired into a general services position at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, an Army post.

"I got to see the Air Force life and the Army life, and that's what made me join the Air Force," Turner said with a chuckle.

Armed with a solid moral foundation, Turner tackled Basic Military Training where he learned life-saving skills and developed his mental fortitude.

For many, this is the first time leaving home for an extended amount of time, so some face the struggle with missing their family.

Turner recalled making the first phone call home about three weeks after arriving.

"We all did the standard cry on the phone with our parents," he said.

Searching for a way to cope and fight through, he thought about his family.

"I knew they all did it, so I knew I could do it," he said.

His training, work ethic and fortitude were first tested when he came home from technical school.

The week after he graduated, he went to visit his grandparents in Michigan. His grandmother had emphysema and while Turner was visiting she had a respiratory attack and came close to losing her life.

Instinctively, Turner's training took over; he began checking her vital signs and keeping her calm until the ambulance arrived.

"He saved her life," said Marilyn Turner, Turner's mother. "Right then, I knew I never had to worry about him."

His family played a strong role in his career, especially once he had a family of his own.

He married his wife, Ann, in 2006 and began his journey as a military father and husband.

"My old supervisor set us up at a cookout and we have been together ever since," said Tech. Sgt. Ann Turner, 366th Aerospace Medicine Squadron NCO in charge of industrial hygiene element.

Shortly after getting married, he began cross-training from being a medical technician into his new career, an independent duty medical technician. It brought a new set of struggles that tested him more than he expected.

Independent duty medical technicians study 13 different medical career fields within the training curriculum.

"We're made to be independent; our main job is that we are built to be a standalone medical facility somewhere by ourselves," Turner said.

Staying current on the annual requirements is only one battle that Turner faces. His quarterly requirements consist of seeing at least 20 patients, conducting food
inspections, testing water and performing bioenvironmental shop visits.

With that being said, he's still found time to better himself as a NCO in the Air Force. He earned his bachelor's degree in science and management at the 17-year mark in his career.

Through seven moves and six deployments, he's had to make time to earn his degree.

"I had to kind of schedule my classes around [deployments and moves] and just stay diligent," Turner said. "Whenever I had an opportunity to do it, I took classes."

Overcoming the obstacle of earning his degree made spending time with his family difficult, but with his wife's support, he carried on.

"I loved seeing his dedication," Ann said.

She explained there were times when she came home and his books would be spread out around him, so to help him stay focused she would take the kids to the park.

Deploying didn't make his studies any easier.

Although he'd been on many deployments his most recent wasn't like the rest.

"A year and a half ago, [my wife and I] deployed at the same time, so that increased the stress level ten-fold," Turner said. "Being 'mil-to-mil' is definitely tough because of that aspect."

His children had to go stay with Ann's parents. He didn't have his "safety-pillow" of knowing his kids were at home with his wife, which normally helped  him get through deployments, he said.

As if that wasn't difficult enough already, the unthinkable happened. His family was involved in a major car accident.

"I couldn't really cancel the deployment or come home early despite [my mother-in-law] getting hurt in the accident," Turner explained.

Ann's mother was the only one badly injured; their son was safely strapped in his car seat. Although their daughter received a few scratches requiring stitches, she was able to communicate with the first responders and crawl over her grandmother and unlock the door, once again proving, "the apple doesn't fall from the tree."

Learning about the accident from their deployed locations proved emotionally challenging for both parents.

"I found out on Facebook," Ann said. "I was panicked and scared of what happened, I just wanted to get home to our kids."

Tech. Sgt. Matthew Turner (right), NCO in charge of the 391st Fighter Squadron medical element, poses with his wife, Staff Sgt. Ann Turner, during the master sergeant promotion social July 17, 2015, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Matthew was selected for promotion to master sergeant two weeks prior to his wife's promotion to technical sergeant. (Courtesy Photo) On top of deployments Turner faced yet another obstacle, gaining rank.

Being in a critically manned career field with only 400 personnel Air Force-wide, makes it difficult to promote, especially with technical sergeant and master sergeant positions being over manned by 20 to 50 percent.

"Job-wise, it is probably one of the best jobs in the Air Force; it's awesome, but promotion opportunities are less than if I would have just stayed in the med-tech realm," Turner said.

Last year, Turner missed promotion to master sergeant by five points. It was tough for Turner, especially after earning NCO of the year. Despite his accomplishments, he struggled with the standardized tests, which factored into his promotion rankings.

"It was really discouraging for him with the low promotion rate," Ann said. "He took a step back, and it really drove him this year."

Having that drive and family support is what earned him a line number for master sergeant in 2015.

Even though Turners swamped with training and always improving as an airman, he still finds time to do after-duty activities.

"Sports and athletics are a big stress reliever for me," he said. "I like to just go out there and not think about work."

When Turner arrived at Mountain Home he started a softball team to represent the base. The team keeps him busy throughout the summer months, corralling 15 players as well as setting up practices and tournaments.

He likes the competitive aspect of traveling to tournaments and playing some of the area's best players and the qualities that come out of players during competitive sports.

"True leadership traits show when you are in competitive sports," Turner said. "It's not just people leading because they have to."

His wife and children do their best to attend most of the tournaments to show their support.

He thanks his family for the support they've given him for making it this far. With them by his side, Turner understands that he can be a great NCO, father and husband.

"One thing I learned from my dad ... is standing up for what you believe in and not being afraid to upset people by your decision making," he said. "[My dad] instilled a set of values and beliefs in me that I am hopefully passing onto my children and to my subordinates."

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