TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Just before she was about to leave for basic military training, Gabrielle Honeycutt started freaking out.
“I was really scared,” she said. “I was shaking and crying and everything.”
Gabrielle was a shy and timid teenager, saying she was “scared to even just change in general,” so the move of going to basic training weighed heavy on her.
Comfort came from a familiar voice: Her father, Jerry Honeycutt, a senior master sergeant and the 60th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment superintendent at Travis Air Force Base, California.
“He was like, ‘It’s going to be OK. I was in the same position as you. You’re going to be OK. I made it. You’ll make it,’ ” said Gabrielle. “(From) that moment to where I am now, I feel like I’ve grown so much and have changed for the better. A lot of it has to do with him.”
Gabrielle is now Airman Honeycutt, an E-2 and radiology trainee with the 60th Diagnostics and Therapeutics Squadron at Travis’ David Grant USAF Medical Center.
The two are in different phases of their careers – Jerry retires soon while Gabrielle begins her service – but the luxury of being stationed at the same base isn’t lost on them as Father’s Day approaches June 18. Gabrielle and her dad are planning to check out the redwoods on Northern California’s Pacific Coast as well as spend time together as a family.
Jerry, a former Air Force recruiter near St. Louis, Missouri, where Gabrielle spent much of her teen years, said he knew the Air Force was a good fit for his daughter.
“I knew her confidence level would skyrocket and after basic (training), it really, really has,” he said. “For me, to see her go through that – not even the Air Force part of me, just the dad part of me – seeing her transition into that, she’s just ready for the world now.”
Gabrielle is doing her “phase two” training at Travis, where she’s learning about X-rays, CT scans and other on-the-job training. Jerry leads scores of Airmen in his role as the superintendent of the 60th OSS, but also has the opportunity to mentor Airman Honeycutt.
“He deals with us, the Airmen, and I know how crazy we can be because I’m around them all day,” said Gabrielle with a laugh. “He’s almost like two dads because in the Air Force, he’s a dad because he watches all these Airmen, and has all this responsibility for them and on the other side, he’s my dad at home because I’m still his daughter.”
Gabrielle is the third generation of the Honeycutt family to serve in the military. Jerry’s father was a draftee who was in the U.S. Army’s infantry airborne during the Vietnam War.
Jerry’s service, meanwhile, was voluntary, starting in 1992. His first stop was Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, where Gabrielle was born. He later served in England, New Mexico, Korea, Hawaii and returned to Korea before landing at Travis.
Jerry said it’s been “hard to even explain” what it’s like to watch his daughter progress through the early stages of her career, making him think back to the start of his own service. He said Gabrielle leans on him not just for the kind of emotional support she needed before shipping off to basic training, but also for Air Force knowledge.
“There’s always two hats that I have to take on and off,” said Jerry. “In some aspects, I’m not really talking to my daughter, I’m talking to another Airman that we’re supposed to mentor. That’s what we do.”
Gabrielle said having her father and her family around while she trains has helped smooth the transition into Air Force life.
“I feel like if I didn’t have him here, I would’ve been very overwhelmed,” said Gabrielle. “It would’ve been scary and it would’ve been a lot harder for me and I would’ve been homesick a lot. I feel more uplifted because I know on the weekends I can go home and see my family.”
The Honeycutts’ time serving together at Travis will end soon. Gabrielle is set to graduate her training next month and head to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to serve at her first duty station. Jerry will retire in seven months after 26 years of service.
“I appreciate every moment,” said Jerry. “I was hoping we would be in the Air Force longer together, but even though it’s a short amount of time, it’s something we’ll remember forever.”