Airman carries on family legacy of service

  • Published
  • By Tenth Air Force Public Affairs
  • Tenth Air Force
1st Lt. Kenneth Ellison grew up hearing about his family’s service in the Air Force. Fourteen years ago, he made the choice to carry on that legacy by enlisting.
“I joined the Air Force Reserve in 2004 to better myself,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere and I knew the Air Force would give me the training I needed to get my life going in the right direction.”
After serving in the enlisted ranks for more than a decade, Ellison directly commissioned into the Medical Service Corps and graduated from Commissioned Officer Training (COT) at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Friday, June 22.
Designed for healthcare, legal, or ministry professionals, COT, differs from other commissioning sources, such as Reserve Officer Training Corps or Officer Training School, as airmen attending this program have already received their commission. The compact course brings in professionals to quickly fill continual needs of the Air Force.
Since Ellison already attained his master’s degree, he received his commission as a 1st Lieutenant in November 2017, and was able to attend the 5-week COT program before returning to the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, to serve as the Medical Readiness Officer in Charge.
“Now as a commissioned officer, I feel like I’m starting yet another chapter of my life. The Air Force has given me so much in my 14 years of service and it is amazing to be part of such a legacy,” added Ellison.
His family noticed a change during his enlistment as well.
“I have seen him mature over the years,” said Melissa, Ellison’s wife. “He has way more drive and motivation. I’ve also seen him become more assertive and confident, he was not that way when we met almost 20 years ago.”
His 14 years enlisted helped him mature from a follower into someone driven to grow, continually learn, and lead.
“The Air Force instilled in me a desire to always improve,” Ellison said. “I’m not content with staying where I’m at in life, I want to be better and help others grow and develop as well.”
Ellison is the son of retired Master Sgts. Juri Dillon and Tony Ellison, who proudly served for 20 and 24 years respectively. However, his family’s Air Force legacy began with his grandfather, retired Tech. Sgt. Lenard Ellison.
“I was 17 and my mother helped me join the Army in August of 1947 to get of the south due to racial tension,” he said. “In September 1947, I was offered the opportunity to join the newly created Air Force.”
The elder Ellison was in one of the first two flights to graduate from Air Force Basic Training and had a long career ultimately retiring after more than 25 years of service.
“The Air Force gave my family and me opportunities to experience a different life, and meet people from various cultures,” he said. “My service gave me confidence that I could have a better life and provide a better life for my family.”
Lieutenant Ellison knows the Air Force Reserve is helping his family in the same way it helped his grandfather. “The best part of being in the AF is that I get to work with people from all walks of life,” he said. “They become your second family away from home. We share a strong bond with each other and trust each other to the fullest.”
Along with his mother, father and grandfather, Ellison joins his two aunts, his uncle and his cousin in service to their country.
His uncle, Chief Master Sgt. Rodney Ellison, retired as the Command Chief, Air Education and Training Command, and was on hand at the graduation. “I’m very proud of Kenneth as he carries on a 70 year tradition of Ellisons’ Air Force service,” he said.
As Lt. Ellison and his cousin continue their family legacy, both as reserve citizen airmen, the new officer is eager to see where this new chapter in his career will take him.
“Whether they were active duty, guard, or reserve, we’ve had a member of our family in the Air Force since its inception,” added Ellison. “It’s great to be a part of this family with such rich history.”