News from the Oklahoma National Guard

NEWS | July 7, 2020

Oklahoma Guardsman uses skills to help community

By Tech. Sgt. Kasey Phipps 137th Special Operations Wing

Oklahoma Army and Air National Guardsmen, like all Guardsmen, serve on two fronts: one at home and one overseas.

For many of those Guardsmen, the Guard’s current part in Oklahoma’s whole-of-government response to COVID-19 is their first state activation here at home. Oklahoma Air National Guard Senior Airman Kaleb Peckham, a water and fuels systems maintainer with the 137th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron, is one of them. He worked for weeks at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City before transitioning to other needed tasks within the state.

Unlike the planning that he put into his overseas deployment in 2016, Peckham said this state activation was more sudden.

“This happened very fast, whereas the deployment we knew about well in advance,” he said. “I was called on a Tuesday afternoon [for this state activation], and I reported on Wednesday morning.”

Peckham was so motivated to initially join the unit after talking to a good friend already serving during a previous state activation for the state.

“I had talked to him after the tornado that came through Oklahoma City [in 2013], and I really just felt the need to want to help out,” Peckham said. “I feel like this is what I wanted to do — help my state and my community — and I'm very happy to be here.”

At the time, Peckham was working at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City as a contracted sheet metal mechanic on KC-135 Stratotankers.

“I had the opportunity to still maintain my civilian job and support the war fighter in that aspect, but I was also able to get the opportunity to do things in the Guard that I normally wouldn't get to do,” he said. “I'm a mechanic at heart. I love working on things, so it was just a good fit.”

The Guard has allowed Peckham to gain expertise within his career while also building mastery in a new one.

“As a mechanic, I was able just to get the experience a little bit and get my feet wet with the Air Force world,” he explained. “Once I actually joined the Guard and went into basic training, I was able to dive much deeper into it and learn much more. It also gave me a lot of attributes to gain leadership skills that I definitely wouldn't have gotten otherwise.”

Now, Peckham is using his sharpened expertise and carefully developed traits to serve the community in which he lives.

“I’m happy to be here knowing that this is helping communities so close to us,” he said. “I find that aspect very rewarding.”
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