By Senior Airman Kristen Pittman, 403rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 22, 2020
Tech Sgt. Seth, Staff Sgt. Paul, and Senior Airman Mark Johnson, all crew chiefs in the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., pause from their workday for a photo in front of Seth's C-130J Super Hercules Sept. 9, 2020. The three Air Reserve Technicians are brothers from Bay St. Louis who serve in the three different maintenance squadrons servicing the 815th Airlift Squadron's C-130J "Flying Jennies" and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron's "Hurricane Hunters." (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristen Pittman)
They are your first best friend and your greatest rival. Your biggest annoyance and your closest confidante. Your own personal bodyguard and your live-in bully. You didn’t choose them, and you’re stuck with them for life.
They’re your siblings.
Siblings are around for pretty much every major part of life growing up, to the point of adulthood, then it’s major life events and family gatherings, but for Tech Sgt. Seth, Staff Sgt. Paul, and Senior Airman Mark Johnson, they get to continue to be a part of each other’s daily lives by serving alongside each other as members of the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing here.
The Johnson brothers grew up not far from Keesler in Bay Saint Louis and were the fourth, fifth, and sixth additions to the family after their parents’ three daughters.
Growing up, Mark said, the three played a lot, and, as goes with any constant sibling interaction, fought a lot. Though, when it came to their three older sisters there was just the occasional boyish terrorization of destroying a doll here and there.
All three were involved with sports growing up, playing both soccer and football at Bay High School. Each played kicker for the football team, all wearing jersey number 17.
There is competitiveness among the three, but also respect. Seth boasted that he never missed an extra point but that Mark could probably kick the farthest, but he also expressed a small ounce of bitterness at the fact that his two younger brothers were both on state championship winning soccer squads.
Upon graduating high school in 2010, Seth was the first to enlist into the Air Force Reserve. He joined the 403rd Wing as a crew chief for the 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron which primarily service the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters.”
A few years into serving as a traditional reservist, he got an opportunity to work as an Air Reserve Technician with the 934th Airlift Wing in Minneapolis, Minn. After three years up north, Seth found his way back to Keesler after securing an ART job, this time working on the 815th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules “Flying Jennies” as a crew chief in the 803rd AMXS.
Historically there had not been a significant military service background in the Johnsons’ family.
“I joined because I just really always wanted to work on airplanes,” said Seth.
While Seth chose the military route straight out of high school, Paul did not exactly follow in his footsteps. Initially, Paul chose soccer and school at Southwest Mississippi Community College in McComb, Miss., but he soon sought the military himself.
“A recruiter called me from the Marines one day,” said Paul, “and I figured if I was going to join the military I might as well one-up Seth and join the Marines.”
As Paul was serving the latter years of his time as a Marine, Mark’s Air Force career was beginning as he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve with the 403rd Wing. Like Paul, Mark had athletic opportunities beyond high school, so he attended Pearl River Community College as a multi-sport student athlete playing soccer and football, but with the news he was expecting his first child with his now wife, he had to figure out a way to support his new family.
Mark said the choice to go the military route was “100%” influenced by his two older brothers.
“I don’t think I would have started the military process if it wasn’t for them,” he said.
By the time Mark finished basic military training and technical training to be a C-130 crew chief, Paul had finished his time with the Marines.
“On the civilian side I worked at a modification facility over at Stennis International Airport working on H-models,” said Paul. “When I got out of the Marine Corps, I figured since I was already working on the airframe, I may as well come over here and work with my brothers. I thought it would be nice to hang out with them and see them more than I already do.”
While his older brothers work as crew chiefs on the two different types of C-130Js the 403rd Wing has, Mark gets the best, and most in-depth, of both worlds as a part of the 403rd Maintenance Squadron where he works on either variation of the aircraft in the isochronal inspection dock.
Each of the three suggest their units provide great, productive work environments, and all three say there are advantages to having each other around.
“Seth has a lot more experience on this airframe than I do, and Mark gets to do the ISO inspections and such, so we’re getting different experiences and we get to share our knowledge with each other,” said Paul.
In addition to the technical, aircraft-related advantages there are professional development advantages as well. Being the oldest and highest ranking, Seth said he tries to impart whatever wisdom he can to his younger brothers to make sure they succeed.
Mark commented on the extra accountability he is held to due to his brothers working so close by and that it makes him a better Airman.
The pros are substantial, and all three agreed there are not any real cons to working in such close proximity to one other. Other than the occasional jab about which is better between the “Flying Jennies” and “Hurricane Hunters” aircraft or who knows the most or even whose haircut looks the worst, the brothers get along well, and if anything, are closer because of their jobs.
As for future plans, all three say they do not see themselves leaving any time soon.
“The end goal, I hope, is each one of us running our respective units,” said Paul. “I personally plan on being the big boss someday.”