In their dad's footsteps: Father inspires teen sons to join Navy

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 1, 2013 

navy reserve pool military franklin county pasco

Twins Tristan, left, and Schuyler Killian, 17, of Pasco, are following in their father Mike's footsteps by signing up for the Navy Delayed Entry Program. Mike, an E-6 in the Navy Reserve, was also once a lifeguard, like his sons, and is currently the Franklin County clerk. Photographed at Memorial Pool in Pasco.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Schuyler and Tristan Killian were newborns when their father got out of the Navy Reserves to focus on his young family.

What their dad, Mike Killian, didn't know at the time is he would inspire the twins to follow in his footsteps -- first as altar servers, then lifeguards and eventually as sailors.

Even if Killian hadn't re-enlisted in the reserves 13 years later, the teens said they grew up knowing the military was a probable path for them after graduating from Pasco High School.

Killian, the elected Franklin County clerk, is a petty officer first class who spent nine months in 2012 deployed to Kuwait. His wife, Diana, is Franklin County's elections administrator.

"We've pretty much always been thinking about it," Tristan said. "I would think (the Navy) was cool anyway, even if dad wasn't in it, because I like the water and you get to travel too."

Sign up for buddy program

Schuyler and Tristan, 17, just started their senior year at Pasco High. In less than 11 months, they will be headed to boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.

During the summer, they each took a break from their jobs at Pasco's Memorial Park pool to travel to Spokane and join the Navy Delayed Entry Program. They signed up through the Buddy Enlistment Program so the brothers can remain together for as long as possible.

The program gives civilians time to think about their decision, while also locking in their tour length and desired job.

"We're already in it," Schuyler told the Herald. "The way (a recruiter) explained it, we have one foot in, and when we ship out, we are all in."

Their ship date is July 22. Schuyler is interested in being an aircrew survival equipmentman, and Tristan an aircrewman.

They will spend about eight weeks at Recruit Training Command before heading to Pensacola, Fla., for air rescue swimmer school and then their respective 'A' School. Then they will be assigned to a squadron.

"Some people were saying it was hard, and I was like, 'When does the hard part come?' " Schuyler said. "I know we did the right thing (signing the contract). I am a little nervous, but really excited."

Tristan agreed: "I'm not doubting it."

Schuyler is looking at four years of active duty, followed by four years of reserves.

Tristan faces six years of active duty because he will have two additional years of 'A' School, followed by two years in the reserves.

However, he is thinking about the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, which would cover tuition to study engineering at University of Washington in Seattle while also training him to be an officer.

Parents proud of sons

Their parents couldn't be more proud about the path they have chosen to take after high school.

"I'm excited. I always thought some type of service would be good for them," said Diana Killian. "We're just a public service type of family and it fits. I feel like we've been getting them ready all along."

She acknowledges it will be difficult when her youngest kids leave home -- daughter Alexandra is a junior at Western Washington University in Bellingham -- but knows in their time away they will get to see new places and come to appreciate their home and family even more.

Mike Killian jokes that he brainwashed the boys, but the teens are quick to respond they never felt pressure from dad.

"We just knew that he was in," Tristan said. "I don't know what else I would do, and the Navy is interesting."

Killian said only 4 percent of the U.S. population actually serves in the military, and he really wasn't surprised when his boys decided to join.

"It's a job, but it's a sacrifice because it's more than just an eight-hour job can be," said Mike Killian, who was in active duty service for nearly seven years, followed by six years in the reserves. He re-enlisted in the reserves in October 2009. "It's a huge commitment, it really is."

Killian also was the inspiration for his brother-in-law joining the Navy. Diana Killian said her brother, who served in the Gulf War, has said it was the best thing he ever did.

Until it's their turn, Schuyler and Tristan said they want to focus on high school.

Twins join cross country

The close brothers have been three-sport students -- football, wrestling and baseball. This year they are swapping football for cross country to do more cardio work as part of their Navy training.

They also have been Key Club International members all four years.

In their rare free time, the teens play sports with friends and video games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Bros. For about five years, they've been altar servers for the 7:30 a.m. Sunday mass at St. Patrick's Church in Pasco, and this was their second summer working as lifeguards in Pasco.

They used their earnings to buy their cars.

The Killians say it already is "real quiet" in the house when the boys go away for a few days, so they're preparing themselves for when the house is deserted next summer.

Diana Killian said she asked them recently just why they want to be in the Navy. They said they signed up to fight for freedom.

"It was a proud mama moment," she said. "They get it."

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