Carrying on tradition: Father and son, now brothers in arms
By Staff Sgt. J.D. Strong II, 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 31, 2018
KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- “From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered—we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother,” – King in William Shakespeare’s Henry V.
Airman 1st Class David Mapel, is following in the footsteps of his father, Chief Master Sergeant Mark Mapel, as a CV-22 Osprey special mission aviator. The senior Mapel is currently the 1st Special Operations Group chief enlisted manager standards and evaluations.
Special missions aviators cover everything from pre-flight inspections of aircraft systems to the placement and delivery of all cargo on board.
They have multiple integral roles, monitoring all functions for the aircraft while providing weapon defense-including the former duties of flight engineers, loadmasters and gunners.
According to Airman Mapel, he went to college and found that it wasn’t for him but he told himself if he ever got tired of college he would join the Air Force. Once he enlisted, the son of a career special operations Airman knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“Being with the family I saw the job, the community, everyone in it and how close everyone was in the squadron, that’s why I wanted to go for special operations,” said Airman Mapel.
While at the Air Force Center of Excellence he placed his airframe selections with all special operations aircraft first. Knowing the background for the job, in combination with seeing the Osprey first hand helped his decision making.
Chief Mapel wanted his son to attend college and get his bachelor’s degree then join the Air Force as a commissioned officer, because he regretted not following that same course himself. Chief went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while remaining enlisted. He has zero complaints about his career and would do it all over again but always wanted more for his kids.
Starting his career as an electro-environmental maintainer for five years, Chief Mapel cross-trained to be a flight engineer on the MH-53. After 12 years he changed airframes, moving over to the CV-22 Osprey. Eight years later he would make Chief, forcing a cross-train to the AC-130W, as a special mission aviator.
“One of the main reasons I joined and chose to do special operations was to try to make a difference in the world, so one day my kids didn’t have to,” said Chief Mapel. “Hopefully I was able to make a little bit of difference.”
The elder Mapel was no stranger to military influences growing up, his father was an U.S. Army infantrymen and his older brother was an U.S. Army Airborne Ranger. He also had several uncles that served in the Army and Marine Corps.
“Their service definitely impacted my decision to join and carry forward the heritage, pride in our military and pride in our country,” said Mapel.
With his own history in the special mission aviator world, Chief knows exactly what is in store for his son upon graduation. His apprehension is eased somewhat because he knows what is in store for Airman Mapel.
“I trust the community he is involved in and will be working with; in special operations we build families and take care of each other,” Chief Mapel said. “His community will take care of him and he will take care of his community, so I have no worries or fears.”
With his son following in his footsteps and close to graduating, Chief Mapel’s feelings for his son have heightened even more.
“I am very proud of him…It’s easy to say it’s the proudest thing [he’s] done to date,” said Chief Mapel. “I’m seriously trying to consider if there is anything else [he’s] done that’s more worthy than serving [his] country as special operations in the United States Air Force and honestly in my opinion, I don’t think there is.”