By Tech Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 23, 2013
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. --
A unique aspect of the National Guard is that members of the same family often serve in the military at the same time together or perchance even in the same unit.
The odds are, at almost any given time on the flight line of the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Ore., any member of the 142nd Fighter Wing can bump into a Bigelow brother generating a fighter jet into flight.
The three Bigelow brothers each contribute to various maintenance aspects with the F-15 jets the 142nd Fighter Wing pilots fly.
Although they have three different jobs, it was older brother Ricky who arrived first and eventually guided his younger brothers Jordan and Sean into joining the Oregon Air National Guard.
"I happened to be tagging along with my friend Honorio Colipano, when the recruiter was working to bring him into the unit," recalled Ricky Bigelow. Ironically Honorio's father, Senior Master Sgt. Norio Colipano was already a member of the wing.
"By the time we had toured the base and had seen the jets, Honorio still had questions but I was ready to enlist," said Ricky Bigelow, now a Master Sergeant, working as a flight line avionics technician. He is also the First Sergeant for the Maintenance Squadron.
After basic training and technical school, Ricky returned to Portland to work a month of training before enrolling in college in the fall of 2001.
"A month after finishing my military school training, I was just about to start college when, 'Boom', September 11th happens and I went right onto Noble Eagle orders," he said.
Eventually his Noble Eagle assignment turned into a full-time technician job more than 12 years ago.
"What keeps me interested still in working on aircraft is that little kid voice inside me. I love seeing what people can do -- like putting a rocket into space," he said.
His energy, enthusiasm and short blonde hair are instantly apparent when he climbs up the ladder and into the cockpit of an F-15 to perform pre-flight maintenance. So too, is his tireless smile that greets those who frequently ask for his advice.
It was an import step for Sergeant Bigelow to take on the responsibilities of becoming a First Sergeant, yet he took it on with the same passion and commitment he brings to keeping jets repaired.
"The job of being a First Sergeant can be extremely difficult at times with trying to balance my technician job and being a really good first shirt," he said.
When he first applied for the job as the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron First Sergeant position two years ago, a conflict of interest kept him for getting that honor as younger brother Sean and Jordan are members of that squadron.
There's a good reason they have that regulation in the books, Ricky Bigelow laughed.
"I defiantly would have abused the power."
Being six years older than Sean and almost two ahead of Jordan, the chance to blaze a trail with the Air Guard allowed Ricky a chance to later bring his brothers into the military.
"The three of us have always been close and nothing has changed since we have been working in the Fighter Wing," said Sean Bigelow.
The youngest Bigelow is the biggest. His relaxed grin and unpretentious manner allows him to take the brunt of his older brother's punch lines, yet taking it all in stride with poise and confidence.
"I saw how much pride my brothers had for being in the military and it made me see them excited to serve," said Sean Bigelow.
Having his two older brothers' around does allow him a sounding board to benefit the responsibilities of military life. The mentorship bonus from having two NCO's in the family does allow Sean a broader sense of perspective as he balances working full-time in construction and drilling part-time.
"Ricky sort of nudged me toward aircraft maintenance," he said.
As a crew chief and a member of the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Senior Airman Bigelow has been deployed to support Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as other short term assignments to places around the globe.
In just six short years, I've done things that people can only dream about with traveling and working on these jets, recalls Sean Bigelow.
Over the past few years, Sean Bigelow had worked temporary tours here at the 142nd, taking time off his civilian job to support the Wing's daily mission. The extra work has only sharpened his maintenance skills and readiness.
"Drill weekends and not being out here full-time, really is not that difficult, the hardest part is probably the paperwork aspect; working on the jets has become second nature to me," said Sean Bigelow.
Two years ago Sean had a serve back injury that required him to miss extended time away from both jobs. It was older brother Ricky that gave Sean a place to live and helped him recover.
I would wake up at night in pain and Ricky would just be there to talk me through it, said Sean Bigelow. "I've never had that kind of love and support."
When Jordan Bigelow joined the unit two years after Ricky, he quickly connected to the weapons team.
Having an older brother in the unit, Jordan Bigelow knew what to expect when he went to basic training.
"I understood what to expect even though the drill instructors were showing us the footage of the first way waves of deployments to Iraqi, " said Jordan Bigelow.
With dark hair and unassuming confident manner, Jordan Bigelow has been a member of the unit more than 10 years, with the last three as a full-time guardsman.
"I enjoyed my civilian job which related to my work here in the aircraft and manufacturing industry," said Jordan Bigelow.
The chance to work here at the Wing everyday was something I really wanted to do, he said.
When he applied for this current job he actually got passed over the first around, but got the job the next time the opportunity presented itself.
"Yes, I was late to the interview because I went to the wrong office where the interviews were being held. I can laugh about it now, but I am who I am; a Bigelow and this is what you get," he said.
There are times when others members of the wing have looked up the wrong Bigelow.
"It can be confusing to some, as our shops have some similarities and we overlap on the flight line," said Jordan Bigelow.
Or as Ricky Bigelow says laughing, "There is a Bigelow in every shop."
When the three brothers are not at work, they all enjoy physical fitness activities. Ricky finds the slopes of Mount Hood inviting to ski, Jordan often is in the woods bow hunting and Sean loves fishing.
"When we do hang out, it's not so much work related topics that come up", said Sean Bigelow.
The concept of family has a dual meaning to all three brothers. Ricky reiterated the theme all three brothers share with their professions in the military.
"What keeps me out here and is family. Not just mine, but the sense that the Wing is an extension of my family," said Ricky Bigelow.