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Falling Apples: Passing down the passion for firefighting

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Todd Pendleton
  • 182nd Airlift Wing

As an Illinois Air National Guard firefighter prepares for retirement,  his son has already begun following his path to an identical career at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Illinois.


John Kautz began his military service as a traditional guardsman on June 11, 1986. He rose through the ranks to retire as a master sergeant in June 2007 and has continued working on the same department as an employee of the State of Illinois.


Shortly before accepting a position as a full-time state employee in 1990, John was mobilized with the Air National Guard as backfill to an active duty unit.


“We deployed to Patrick Air Force Base (Florida) during the first Gulf War. We were there for five and a half months,” John said.


After returning home, John began his employment in the 182nd Civil Engineer Squadron as a state civilian employee in addition to serving as a traditional guardsman.   


In 1994, John’s son, Airman 1st Class Shawn Kautz was born, and while he was growing up, his father’s occupation was something Shawn took a liking to.


“Probably about the time I was facing high school the career field itself was something I would probably enjoy doing, and I really didn’t have an outlet to get into it as far as firefighting goes. With the opportunity to come on here, it was a no brainer,” Shawn says about his decision to enlist in March 2015. 


John said he could not be more proud of his son’s accomplishment.


“Never in the history of this fire department have two family members worked together. It’s kind of surreal, really! There’s a lot of pride involved in knowing that he’s in the military and in the same career field and doing a great job, and very well accepted and respected by his fellow firefighters,” John said.


Right now, Shawn is working at the fire house on military orders fulfilling his seasoning days after completing technical school. In November, he began working full time as a state employee and maintaining his military status as a traditional guardsman, just as his father did from 1990 to 2007. As far as making military firefighting a long-term career, Shawn is approaching it cautiously.


“Right now I’ll take it as it is and proceed with everything I have to do to make my career fulfilling for the time I’m in, at least for my first enlistment. Then go from there afterwards,” he said.


John reflected on his own career as it comes to a close this month.


“I’m the longest standing firefighter in this department both militarily and civilian. I’m the only one left from the group I deployed with to Patrick Air Force Base, there is no one left from my early days in the military or as an original state employee, so that in itself is significant.

Now, most of the guys here are young, are new to the military and to the department.”


“There have been a lot of changes in the fire department in the last couple of years.” John said. “With new the management having a positive and productive approach to leading these new firefighters I have no problem leaving this new gerneration in their hands.”