Family Combines for 161 Years of Service - And Counting

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Despite the 161 combined years of military service accumulated by her immediate family, Senior Master Sgt. Christine Koch's most meaningful days of service actually came after she retired - the first time.

Days after she retired from the Michigan Air National Guard, terrorists struck at America on Sept. 11, 2001. The then-newly-retired Koch was called in to serve as a command post operator at Selfridge Air National Guard that day as the military quickly took complete control of the skies above the nation.

Koch is the oldest of five siblings who either are or have served in uniform, following a legacy begun by their father, retired Lt. Col. Robert A. Heyart. Heyart began his career as an enlisted member of the Michigan Air National Guard, initially serving in a unit that was assigned at the time to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He served at Selfridge for many years after and finally ended his career as a member of the Air Force Reserve's 927th Wing, as the deputy commander for logistics. As the senior Heyart served, his children watched and five of the six kids also enlisted. They are:

· Koch, the first to enlist, in 1980.

· Major Robert E. Heyart, who now serves with the Michigan Air National Guard in Battle Creek. The major recently administered the oath of office to swear-in his older sister for her next three-year enlistment. Her dad first swore her in.

· Major Ronald Heyart, who serves with the Ohio Air National Guard. Robert and Ronald are twins. Their father is also a twin, and his brother also served in the Air Force.

· Master Sgt. Anthony Heyart, who serves in the supply section, also with the Michigan ANG at Battle Creek.

· Thomas Heyart, who served on active duty in the U.S. Navy.

Counting their father's time, the Heyart family has combined for more than 161 years of military service. All of the members of the family began as enlisted members of the military.

Koch's situation was unusual to say the least.

She retired in August 2001, with about 21 years of service. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, she was contacted by the senior leaders at Selfridge and asked to return to duty. She was one of the few command post controllers around who had experience operating an "alert mission" with F-16 Fighting Falcons actively responding to numerous alerts. She ended up working a 12-hour day on Sept. 11 - unpaid - and returned to Selfridge as a civilian employee. Eventually, she decided to "un-retire" and return to uniformed service.

"I knew that day that I could bring my 21 years of training into practice," Koch recalls now, 12 years after that fateful day.

"Being so intimately involved in the defense of the United States, sending our pilots off to who only knows what. That stays with you," Koch said. "I always felt patriotic, but it was really awakened on 9/11. And it has never really gone away."

Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marked its 95th year of continuous military air operations in 2012.