Some family traditions run deeper than others, yet for decades there have been few things more customary than serving the country for two Citizen Air Commandos assigned to the 919th Special Operations Wing.
Capt. Brock Harrell, 859th Special Operations Squadron pilot, has always admired the commitment and sacrifice exemplified by his father, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Harrell, 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance superintendent. Father’s Day provides an opportunity for him to express gratitude for his dad’s impact on his life.
“My father was a huge inspiration in my decision to join the Air Force,” Brock said. “I think it all started when we watched crop-dusters buzz over the fields and watched air shows together.”
After graduating high school, Brock enrolled in college and shortly thereafter decided to join the 919th SOW. He began his career in an enlisted position as a loadmaster for the 5th Special Operations Squadron. His grandfather served in the Air Force, his father served, and now it was his turn.
“I always thought it was a good idea for him,” Mark said. “He actually started at the bottom until he got familiar with the Air Force and worked his way up.”
In 2016, Brock made his way to Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to earn his commission so he could pursue his dream of flying. At the end of the rigorous nine-week course, Brock celebrated this new path with his father and grandfather.
“I was surrounded by Air Force members from an early age and made a conscious effort to talk to Airmen who inspired me,” Brock said. “I always knew I wanted to be a pilot, but just took a longer route to get there.”
Now, his focus is on balancing the demands of flying for the Air Force with work and his commitments at home.
“My family is very supportive of my military career,” Brock said. “They don’t like it when my father or I go away, but they understand the sacrifices we have to make when we serve.”
Outside of his regular Air Force duties, Brock helps his father Mark run a farm in Alabama. His father oversees 100 acres of farmland with 33 cows. They both help mow and take care of the cattle.
“It’s my full-time job outside of what I do for the Reserve,” Mark said. “My son likes to help out, but I think it’s more fun for him than anything. Whether it’s on the farm or supporting his military career, our family is tight.”
Brock now has two kids of his own and noted while they haven’t expressed a desire to join the service quite yet, that could change later. Until then, the Harrell family’s tradition of service remains ever present at Duke Field.
“Brock is carrying on the legacy that I started here years ago,” Mark said. “This is a volunteer job, and he’s making a difference.”
With Brock’s father nearing retirement, he cherishes the few occasions when their duties allow them to see one another if only for a brief moment. At the end of the day, he hopes his contributions made an impact on the squadron and is glad to carry on the family legacy of supporting the 919th SOW mission.
“I’m proud to be an Airman and to carry on the tradition,” Brock said. “I love protecting our country and I want to be the best leader I can be while getting the job done.”