About USAF A1C Kenneth W. “K3” Sturgill, Captain CAP USAF Aux
In Memory of
Capt Kenneth W. “K3” Sturgill
February 13, 1995 – July 07, 2016
On July 7, 2016, The California Wing lost one if it’s most dynamic young members, Airman First Class (A1C) Kenneth W. Sturgill passed away on the final day of the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor Selection Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis in Texas. Kenneth, known affectionately as “K3” since he was named after both his father and grandfather, had recently received top honors as an honor graduate and tied for top graduate of a class of 715 trainees from Air Force basic training at Lackland Air Force Base before beginning SERE training.
SERE Instructor Selection School is known for being one of the most demanding technical schools in the Air Force. The goal of the selection process is to identify not only the “best of the best” in physical abilities and survival tactics, but also find those that have the unique ability to effectively instruct to a broad and varied audience from both the enlisted and officer ranks. Kenneth had both the physical attributes and the ability to touch those that he was instructing which made him perfectly suited for this important role.
They did and took him to join Civil Air Patrol and thus began K3’s journey of “Service Before Self.”
During basic training, K3 was selected as Dorm Chief where the leadership skills he developed in CAP benefited his entire BMT flight. He earned Warhawk Athlete, Honor Graduate, and completed BMT rated tied for 1st out of 715 trainees. Graduation from basic training is a proud moment where the family can come out to graduation and see their new Air Force Airman for the first time in many weeks. Following K3’s graduation, he briefly greeted his proud parents and announced that he needed to tend to him fellow gradates to ensure that they all met up with their families. Later that night, K3 personally telephoned many of the people in CAP that positively impacted his life to personally thank them for their guidance and mentorship. Following graduation, K3 attended SERE training where he selflessly gave of his time to help and encourage his fellow airmen trainees and CAP members back home. On his last day of SERE training, K3 was found in the field unresponsive and could not be resuscitated.
The sudden passing of K3 sent shockwaves through the Air Force and CAP communities. As his friends and fellow CAP members struggled to make sense of K3’s loss, the essence of his true being began to emerge. Col Alan Ferguson, Commander of the California Wing, said “Kenneth had a positive impact on the lives of CAP members both cadets and seniors. It is always sad when we lose a CAP member but when we lost K3 it was very hard on many of us. K3 had been an outstanding cadet and at the time of his passing was an outstanding senior member and Air Force Airman. Everyone involved in the California Wing’s Cadet Program knows the Sturgill family and that are always there to help others succeed. We will all miss K3. Even those that never personally knew K3 have benefited by his contribution to CAP”.
On his final journey home, K3 was accompanied by a fellow former CAP Cadet and US Army EOD Speciality Mark Combs.
On July 16, 2016, a public memorial was held in Livermore to honor K3’s memory. Although many days had passed since K3’s death, the chapel was filled beyond capacity with mourners who were still in shock but were inspired by the many speakers at the service which was presided over by Lt Col (Ch) Paul Ward. Among those that spoke were his two CAP “brothers” Ravi Patel and Luke Beck-Fridell who recounted how the three of them were inseparable throughout their CAP years and that although gone, K3 would continue to inspire them throughout their lives. One of the last to speak was Congressman Eric Swalwell who presented the family with a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol in honor of K3.
The family and friends of Kenneth have worked with the Cadet Character and Leadership Foundation to develop this scholarship for cadets attending Civil Air Patrol Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course (PJOC) and Advanced Pararescue Orientation Course (APJOC). The ultimate goal of the scholarship is to honor Kenneth’s spirit of “NFQ” by helping support those cadets who desire to attend the course.
To know Kenneth was to love him and everything he embodied. His life goals were based on the USAF Pararescue motto – “These Things We Do, That Others May Live.” He exemplified the core value of “Service Before Self” in everything that he did, saw to the needs of everyone else and could be counted on to lend a hand whenever needed. Kenneth left this world doing what he loved most and living his dream, in the service of his nation. He was a leader beyond his years. Kenneth was our brother, our fellow airman, our commander, our teacher, our mentor, our son, and most of all, our friend and although he may no longer be with us physically, the gifts that he gave us all will live forever in our wing and everyone he touched.
Article by Maj Kathy Johnson, Bear Facts, edited by K3 Scholarship Group