‘Faith, Family, Service’
By Steve Rivera
For Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Butler, it’s always been about family.
“I feel like I’ve always erred on the family side,” said Butler, commander of the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard. “I’m a Wing commander so I run a base. My message to my airmen is faith, family, service – with those priorities.”
It’s something he’s taken to heart throughout his career, even “kicking the Air Force to the curb a little bit early in my career.”
He prioritized situations to help his family. He’s given his time back since, but he also didn’t try to be what he called a “careerist,” but rather a family man who can also give back to the service.
Butler is a 2022 Father’s Day Council Tucson Father of the Year.
He’s the leader of men and women who have duties to fulfill, but also lives to live. He said there has to be a balance.
“I’ve seen a lot of peers, a lot of superiors and a lot of subordinates lose their families,” he said. “There’s nothing harder than marriage, but there’s also nothing that can give back more. I tell my airmen that the most powerful human dynamic on Earth is family. I get the best service out of people who have a strong family.”
Butler and his wife, Cindi, have six kids – Trent, Gavin, Gwynn, Ally, Sarah and Matt – and Axel, an “adopted” son the family took in after his mother passed away. They have lived a great life full of love and fun and tough love.
They think of him as this strong man with an even stronger work ethic forged after growing up working long hours on a farm in Rocky Ford, Colo.
“I was talking to the kids recently and they were saying, ‘Daddy can be so strong,’ but he can also be really tender too,” Cindi said. “The relationships are super warm and inviting.”
Butler said his days – and the kids’ days during their youth – started at 6 a.m. and ended about 3:30 p.m. with the luxury of Cindi being able to homeschool the children.
“I’d speed home to what I felt was a whole half a day with the kids at home,” he said. “It was sweet to have that job where I could be home a lot and get a lot of kid time in each day. I was able to take leave for every birthday and we’d turn it into a whole day.”
Butler said he was impacted by a story he heard of an airman was who was killed while flying. The airman had an 8-year-old son. In an interview, the boy said his dad never made any of his birthdays.
“That prioritized me,” he said. “Before you know it (the kids) are gone. It’s sweet to do things for them and have daily time.”
Like the days when he was the birthday pirate, where he’d steal the presents and the guests would chase him down to capture the gifts. Or the time he was the birthday cow and all the kids would take a ride.
Cindi said her husband “carried the balance really well” of being a fun dad and a strong dad.
“He’s a strong guy but also one who will do anything for them,” she said.
He’d also make sure they knew the value of hard work.
“I have the three girls and three boys, so I wanted my boys to know what hard, manual labor was,” he said. “They would say I was a little bit driven but also, they’d say I’m fairly humorous. I like to joke around too.”
“My kids fell in love with North Island in San Diego, and we’d do water survival training there every summer,” he said. “They’d camp and then we’d hit the beach for two or three days. It was a lot of fun and a lot of nostalgia.”
And they created memories, something that has always been important to Butler, because being a “dad means everything to me. It’s interesting how powerful a father’s seat is, especially if you are engaged as your family grows up.”
Pictured above – Top row: Gavin and fiancé Chloe Middle row: Sarah, Ally, Gwynn and husband Kevin Bottom row: Axel, Matt, Jeff, Cindi and Trent