Why I serve: Tech. Sgt. Christopher Frerichs

Man sits in room with awards and other accolades behind his left shoulder.

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Frerichs, Force Support Squadron dining facility building manager, sits in his office Feb. 25, 2020. Frerichs, joined the Air Force at 19 after college became affordable. He spoke about personal issues he's dealt with throughout his life and the importance of looking out for everybody including people who seem to have everything together because you never know what they are dealing with.

I joined the Air Force at the age of 19, in December of 2010.  It was never part of my plan to be in the military at all.  I grew up in a lower-class family with 6 half-brothers and stepbrothers.  I was really big into sports growing up, and eventually I ended up with a tennis scholarship to play at the University of the Cumberlands in Southern Kentucky.  The price of tuition went up and my scholarship did not grow to match the price of the school.  Rather than go into a ton of student debt, I decided to join the military to help me pay for school, and give me something to do that would get me out of Kentucky for a while.  
The Air Force has been a great life decision for me.  I have been on three deployments; I have lived in Japan and started a family.  I am the father to two awesome daughters, and I have an incredible wife who is with me through every permanent change of station, temporary duty assignment, exercise and anything else in between.  I really couldn’t do it without that kind of support back home.  
Since I have been in the Air Force, I have been stationed at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Misawa Air Base, Japan and now here.  In my career, I have worked lodging, food and readiness.  I had the opportunity to participate in the base honor guard at McConnell, where then Command Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright would come and watch us practice all the time.  
Once I got to Japan, I was picked up to work in the readiness office.  It was there that I really came into my own.  I worked a few projects, impressed a couple of people and was coined by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Cody. I then was told to go to Airman Leadership School, before I had a line number for staff sergeant.  There, I worked hard and, once again, impressed some people, and left with the John L. Levitow Award.  
While I was in Japan, I snowboarded some of the finest powder in the world. I surfed at beaches with volcanic sand that would stain your skin black. I snowshoed up volcanic mountains and even bathed in sulfur springs that had to be shared with wild monkeys.  I even managed to become a statistic at Misawa, fulfilling the “2 baby” rule by having two children while I was there.  
I am now stationed at Offutt AFB, where I am one of the dining facility managers.  Offutt has been a good assignment so far.  I have been given the opportunity to work with the 5/6 on POW/MIA events; I have been praised by every level of my chain of command for the work I have done.  This past year, I even got a promotion statement on my enlisted performance report.  That is a good part of the reason that I am here with you today.  I am about to embark on my next big adventure as an military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and I couldn’t be more excited to see how this next chapter will go.  
This life sounds like it has been great, but I assure you that it has its gilded lens.  I didn’t mention the part, growing up, where I was sexually abused by one of my brothers, or how I didn’t know how to cope with what happened to me, so I was bullied relentlessly in school.  I didn’t tell you that it had me so messed up that it took 20 years for me to finally tell anyone about it.  
I left out the part where a birth defect nearly kept me out of the military at MEPS.  I didn’t talk about how, while working in Japan, I was on the mortuary team, and had to drape a flag over so many of our Airmen as the wing stood on a frozen flight line, sending them home.  I left out the part of Japan that gave me terrible anxiety because North Korea was shooting ICBMs over the top of my base.  I also left out the part explaining how I got to Offutt. I was supposed to go to Ghetti, Italy, but my youngest daughter had a genetic disease that required immediate medical attention, and Omaha Children’s Hospital was the only place that would take her.  
I left these things out initially because I want to let you know that not everyone you come across has it as good as you think, no matter how it looks from where you’re standing.  To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, “all that glitters is not gold.”  Look out for your wingman!  Look out for your Airmen, even the ones that you are only with for a few months.  You may never know the impact that you’ve had on them.
To get down to it, the reason I serve is because I had a supervisor named Tech. Sgt. Johnnie Powell, who saw something in me.  He pushed me hard and required excellence.  I hated him for it sometimes, but looking back, he has made me into the NCO that I am today.  I recently realized that the help and advice I received from Powell had come full circle when an Airman I mentored on my last deployment sent me this message on Facebook:
“Hey, Man.  Figure I should tell you since you have been my reality check since Kuwait.  I have been medically disqualified for retrain to pararescue and special reconnaissance. So looks like I’m going to retrain to Tactical Air Control Party.  I just want to say Thank You.  You have instilled a ‘roll with the punches’ mindset in me.  Times get tough, but tough people make the most of circumstances.  I appreciate you to a whole new level.  So thanks man.”
I serve because I have an opportunity every day to influence young Airmen.  I serve because I have the opportunity to instill life lessons that could change someone’s life.  I serve because I am blessed to have people around me who build me up and make me better.  Lastly, I serve because I love what I do and the people I get to serve with.
I want you all to remember that you are important to someone.  You can instill change in someone’s life.  Be there for one another.  Check on the guy that has it all figured out.  Be a friend and help out where you can.  Move from a “not now” to a “what’s next” mindset.  Build this Air Force into the force you want to be a part of.  As corny as it sounds, Aim High. Others are watching your lead.