Retired Master Sgt. Kurt Carlson Jr., second from left, is shown with his three Air Force children, Kurt III, Natasha and Joshua. The occasion was son Kurt's 2011 graduation and commissioning at East Carolina University. (Courtesy of Carlson family)
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Then-Senior Airman Kurt Carlson Jr. and his wife, Debbie, were married in 1985. Second from left in the photo at left, he is shown with his three Air Force children — Kurt III, Natasha and Joshua — at son Kurt's 2011 graduation. (Courtesy of Carlson family)
When a football career didn’t work out for 2nd Lt. Joshua Carlson, he decided to pursue the only other life he’d ever known — the Air Force.
He was set to earn his wings Aug. 29 after completing weapons systems school in Pensacola, Florida, where the five-member Carlson family would reunite for the first time since 2011.
Joshua is the youngest of three Carlson children and the last to join the Air Force. All three followed in the footsteps of their father, retired Master Sgt. Kurt Carlson Jr., who spent most of his 23-year career as an air transportation specialist.
The service that would bring them together at the end of August has for years taken them to different parts of the world.
There was a time when the retired master sergeant wouldn’t have thought all his children would end up in the Air Force. He nearly didn’t. There was no family precedent; it was only at the urging of his stepfather that he looked into the military.
“I was a really content kid. I probably never would have left the house if he hadn’t nudged me,” said the veteran, who grew up in Rutland, Massachusetts. “The Air Force gave me some direction, gave me a career, allowed me to raise my three children in a manner I could provide for them.”
While military life was new to him, it wasn’t for his wife, Debbie, whose father retired from the Air Force. He called her “the glue that has kept us all together and heading in the right direction.”
The transportation specialist spent much of his career in Germany, where his children attended Defense Department schools.
It was because of that experience that Staff Sgt. Natasha Carlson Biquet wanted to teach military kids. But after high school, she found herself living at home with little direction — much as her father once had.
“I was a 23-year-old kid who needed to figure out what to do with my life,” said Natasha, a cyber systems operations technician at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
She remembers how her father’s eyes seemed to brighten when she told him of her plans to head to basic training in March 2008.
While she wasn’t always sure she’d like to make a career out of the service, Natasha now believes she will.
As for her dreams of being a DoD educator: “I get to mentor young airmen even now. Getting to teach them their jobs and watch them grow into young adults, it’s fun and rewarding.”
First Lt. Kurt Carlson III always knew he wanted to join the Air Force. His father’s example was his biggest influence, he said, “seeing the type of work he was doing on the flightline and the impact he was making.”
When he saw the Thunderbirds, the lieutenant said, he was hooked. He commissioned through the ROTC program at East Carolina University in North Carolina in 2011 and works as a program manager at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Joshua wanted to play football. When that didn’t work out, he headed to his brother’s alma mater, joined ROTC and commissioned in May 2013.
In Florida, the family planned to enjoy being together, said the retired master sergeant, now a civilian employee for the 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Natasha is determined to make master sergeant before her father did, the elder Carlson said. His sons joke that he has to salute them now that they are officers. “As a father, I didn’t realize the impact I had on them. You just go through life and do the best you can,” he said.