MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
For a child growing up in Quezon City in metro Manila, Philippines, joining the U.S. military isn’t a typical career path. For Airman 1st Class Kathrine Butler, however, she said that it was family influence that taught her it was not only possible, but also valuable.
The family legacy dates before the Vietnam War, when Butler’s uncle made the decision to come to the U.S. to join the military. Showing the family the benefits of this decision, this created a trend that roughly eight other family members have followed.
“When I was a child, I was surrounded by family that had chosen to serve in both the Philippines and the U.S.,” Butler said. “I listened to stories from my uncles and other family about their service in the U.S. military, so joining was always on my mind. I never knew it would be possible, but it was always a dream to be able to serve.”
Following in the footsteps of those family members, the personnel specialist with the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development joined the U.S. Air Force in June of 2017, marking Butler’s first step on her journey to U.S. citizenship, which she would receive just over a year later.
After she graduated high school in 2006, Butler went on to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing while in the Philippines. After a few years working in medical spas and hospitals in Cebu, Philippines, Butler met her future husband, an American who was visiting the Philippines on vacation. After getting married in 2014, the couple made the decision to head stateside.
“When we started dating, I said to myself that if I will commit to this relationship, I should be ready to move wherever he goes since he was just there on vacation,” she said.
Butler's husband, coming from a family full of military service members himself, said he wanted to support his wife and helped fuel the decision to combine her career in nursing with that of family members before her, becoming a nurse in the U.S. Air Force.
“Decisions and discussions between us were filled with ’what ifs,’ but the ultimate goal would be a nurse in the Air Force,” said her husband Paul. “To achieve that goal, it would be one big step after another, with immigration and citizenship being the two biggest. With those behind us, we can now focus on the other goals in the nursing field and a career in the Air Force.”
Butler admitted that she was a bit overwhelmed when she first arrived in the U.S. She described a feeling of uncertainty as her family began their new life in what was to her a foreign country.
“When we came to the U.S., I opened my mind to be in the military since it was all new to me,” Butler said. “I didn't know what to do or what job I would get. I asked myself, “Am I going to be a stay-at-home mom or work?” As a family, we decided that it would be best for me to enlist then transition to the officer side, and I am glad with the decision I made.”
Fast forward nearly 18 months, Butler and her family are currently stationed at Maxwell while she works in the Holm Center’s commander support staff office.
“A1C Butler is a tremendous asset to the Holm Center,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Morris, chief enlisted manager at the center. “She is one of two Airmen that work in our commander support staff office, providing services to over 3,000 personnel and 148 commanders across the entire United States.”
Morris said that Butler is always smiling and eager to learn and is the first one to raise her hand and volunteer for any project.
“What seems the most impressive to me about Butler in the fact that she was willing to serve in the U.S. Air Force without being a citizen,” Morris said. “She is well-educated and comes to us with a degree in nursing, but decided to enrich our Holm Center family and Air Force family by serving and becoming a U.S. citizen. We are all extremely proud of her and grateful she is part of our team.”
Despite still being new to the Air Force, Butler emphasized the amount of unique opportunities she has already been able to experience, including a chance to meet and being officially recognized by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright during one of his visits to Air University, the intellectual and leadership-development center of the Air Force.
“Meeting Chief Wright would certainly be one of the most inspirational and memorable highlights, and it will be,” Butler said of her young career. “However, I would be remiss if I did not mention all the support, friendship, inspiration and motivation from the team I deal with every day right here at the Holm Center. My supervisors have been incredible with me as I learn a new job, a new career and a new culture in the U.S. Air Force.”
From basic training to her first duty station, Butler said that one of her favorite parts about serving is the community.
“The Air Force has shown me that supporting your co-workers is the key to success,” she said. “My co-workers have all shown me this as I started my journey at basic military training and here at the Holm Center. I look forward to that continuing as I go through my career from here.”
Butler gave some advice to other foreign nationals who are considering a career in the U.S. Air Force.
“Go with your instincts,” she said. “Even though you are going to a place that you might not be used to, try and make the best of it. Don’t be afraid, as long as you have the support of your family, friends and new coworkers, give it your best effort and people will recognize it.”
While she continues to serve the Air Force on the enlisted side, Butler says her next step is to go even further in the service of her new nation as she works toward her goal of commissioning as an officer.