Soft spoken for 61 years

Photo by Staff Sgt. MARCY COPELAND

Retired Master Sgt. Duane Kellner is a soft spoken man with not much to say, but his career as an Air Force crew chief speaks for itself.

In 1954, in the agricultural area of Muskego, Wisconsin, Kellner spent his teenage years not exactly living up to his potential. Deciding he had messed around enough and wanted something more “fun,” Kellner enlisted in the Air Force and left for Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

“I wasn’t accomplishing anything,” Kellner said. “I wasn’t getting the best of grades and a buddy of mine decided to go have some fun, so we joined together. We ended up getting split up. He went to bomber school, and I went to learn fighter planes in Japan.”

After leaving Japan in 1958, Kellner was sent to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was stationed there for three months before being discharged.

“I got out in 1958 and I stayed out,” Kellner said. “I stayed out for three months and discovered there were no jobs, so I joined back up and was sent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson where I met my wife, Esther.”

In 1960, Kellner left Tucson and went to Okinawa, Japan, and spent 18 months there. He was sent to Luke AFB until 1963 when he transferred to Williams AFB in Mesa to work on the new F-5s.

1966 rolled around and Kellner was sent to Vietnam and had to leave behind his new bride and a 1-year-old daughter. He was there for a little more than a year working aircraft maintenance.

He was first sent to Phan Rang then shipped to Da Nang Air Base. The day he went to re-enlist, Kellner survived the building being bombed.

“It was just one of the hazards of being in the military,” he said. “You can get popped. You get missed, you get missed. If you don’t, well then you don’t.”

After his service in Vietnam, he went to work as NCO in charge in aircraft records at Holloman AFB near Alamogordo, New Mexico. His entire unit was sent back to Kirtland AFB where Kellner remained NCO in charge of aircraft records. Shortly after arriving at Kirtland, Kellner received orders to Kunsan AB, South Korea. It was 1972, and this time Kellner was sent to serve overseas for one year. He left behind his wife, daughter, son and a brand new baby boy.

He arrived back in the states only to be sent back to Luke where he found a permanent home for his family and his career. In 1977, Kellner retired as a master sergeant working under the 56th Organizational Maintenance Squadron as an aircraft crew chief for the F-4 Tiger II.

“I think he’s had a very interesting career,” said Esther Kellner, his wife. “Anyone who ever worked under my husband loved working for him. He wasn’t the type to yell and scream. He would just tell them what needed to be done. I enjoyed the military people because they have always been so friendly. You have to move around a lot and make friends in a hurry, so I think the camaraderie between military people is different than with people on the civilian side.”

After retiring from the Air Force, Kellner worked at a bowling center as a mechanic until he retired in 1998. From 1954 until 1977 Kellner worked on the Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, F-86E and F-86D Sabre, F-84 Thunderjet, F-89J Scorpion, F-101B Voodoo, F4C Phantom, F5B Freedom Fighter/Tiger.

Kellner now enjoys his retirement relaxing at home building model airplanes with his brother-in-law Raymond Shouse.