Head first into the unknown

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Grandfather, father and son; three generations of devoted, committed and determined men all dedicating their lives to something bigger than themselves.

Senior Airman Brian Kamphaus, a 92nd Logistics Readiness Squadron material management journeyman, joined the military following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and has been serving in the Air Force for more than three years, making the most of every possible minute.

“After being born and living in Germany for 18 years, I gave up everything to come to this country I knew nothing about,” Kamphaus said. “I renounced my German citizenship to be here and gave up everything I had.”

His father retired from the U.S. Army and began work in Germany as a defense contractor. Kamphaus was born and raised as a German citizen, never having stepped foot on American soil until he was 18 years old when he arrived in San Antonio for basic military training.

“Around my 18th birthday, my father relocated to Hawaii for work, taking my stepmom and two younger siblings with him. At that point, I had to decide what I was going to do,” Kamphaus said. “Do I stay in Germany and do what I’ve done my entire life? Or do I do something a little crazy; go to a country I’ve never been before and join the military? I jumped head first into the unknown and I would do it all over again.”

Kamphaus follows a long history of family service including his grandfather, retired Chief Master Sgt. Clarence Kamphaus, who served 33 years, first in the Army, then Army Air Corp and finally the Air Force. He served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and was a Prisoner of War for a short time. Three bronze stars later, he retired and then served 22 years in civil service.

“He’s the one I look up to most. I didn’t appreciate him while he was around and now that he is gone, I wish I would’ve spent more time with him, picking his brain and listening to his stories,” Kamphaus said. “I strive for his excellence every day.”

His grandfather was the force behind Kamphaus’ decision to join the Air Force.

“I originally wanted to join the Navy, be a Seabee and build schools in Africa,” Kamphaus added. “When I spoke to my grandfather over the phone, he said if I wanted to join the service I will join the Air Force and there was no other way about it.”

Three and a half years later, Kamphaus has excelled in his career and the whole Airman concept. He was selected for Senior Airman Below the Zone, received the Lance P. Sijan U.S. Air Force Leadership Award and American Legion Spirit of Service Award. Kamphaus has also been recognized for his dedication to the Spokane County Fire District and his local community as a volunteer firefighter.

“Senior Airman Kamphaus is the embodiment of what the Air Force and DoD describe in commercials,” said Staff Sgt. Julio Arroyo Mercado, 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Central Repair Facility lead. “He is a person with the determination, passion, perspective and hunger many of us have inside, yet fail to embrace. Kamphaus comes from a hardworking lineage of people who were accomplished dreamers. He is a visionary, he is insatiable.”

Last April, Kamphaus was returning to base after lunch when he noticed an excess of vehicles on the side of the road. As he approached the stalled traffic, he noticed a vehicle had turned onto its side and slid into a ditch. Kamphaus pulled over to see how he could assist. When he arrived on scene, he recognized Tech. Sgt. Carlos Torres Figueroa, 92nd Force Support Squadron Honor Guard NCO in charge, tending to the patient.

“I approached Tech. Sgt. Torres who had hands on the patient and was actively engaging with him,” Kamphaus recalled. “The patient had blood on his hands and a deep laceration across his face. While Torres performed a trauma assessment, I secured his spine until emergency responders arrived.”

When emergency responders arrived on scene, Kamphaus and Torres assisted in securing the patient in a cervical spine collar to stabilize his head and neck. The patient was then loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital.

Kamphaus and Torres are both firefighters with the Spokane County Fire District. They have had several months of formal training, certifications and qualifications ranging from types of motor vehicles, structural fire types and emergency medical technician practices.

“Kamphaus committed to the four-month long fire academy on top of volunteering his time in the community and working more than 40 hours a week, without ever missing a day,” Arroyo said. “When he stopped to help during the accident, he returned to base covered in blood and apologized for the delay. He said all he needed was time to change and he would return to work. His commitment, dedication and sacrifice doesn’t surprise me at all, it’s just who he is.”

“I tell myself every day that I will never turn my back on people who need my help. I will go out of my way to help if someone needs it. It’s called being human,” Kamphaus said. “We have to look out for each other, we really do.”