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Mothers Day an opportunity to recognize moms who serve

Female Airman hold decorative pallet board with photos of her children attached.

Master Sgt. Kimberly Censabella, 919th Special Operations Support Squadron first sergeant, holds a photo frame depicting images of her family at Duke Field, Florida, May 2, 2021. Censabella has three children, one of whom is an active duty Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dylan Gentile)

Mother hugs Airman in dress blues in a park.

Airman 1st Class Hunter Kronenberg, electronic warfare maintenance specialist, stands with his mother Master Sgt. Kimberly Censabella, 919th Special Operations Support Squadron first sergeant, after graduating Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, March 17, 2019. Censabella began her Air Force career at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, as part of the Air National Guard. (Photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Kimberly Censabella)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Mothers in the military often have to make sacrifices to get the mission done. Master Sgt. Kimberly Censabella, first sergeant with the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron, has faced and overcome challenges as she brought her children into adulthood and into the service.

“I had my child at a very young age,” said Censabella. “I made every misdirection and wrong turn in the world, until I decided I wanted to make a difference and join the service.”

She lived on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, with her two children where her then-husband served. She felt as if she didn’t understand the community around her and wanted a purpose. Censabella joined the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard in Oct. 2003 as a supply management specialist.

When she came to Duke Field in 2009, she found a supportive community that assisted her with the struggles of motherhood in the military.

“The community in Northwest Florida has such a large military presence that my kids' friends all understood swing shifts and deployments,” said Censabella. “So when I put my uniform on and was gone for the weekends, they weren’t shocked. Though [military life] was stressful, they were very adaptable.”

Censabella’s son, Airman First Class Hunter Kronenberg, electronic warfare maintenance specialist with the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, took notice of how the community around Duke Field would support his mother.

“The way my parents handled deployments around us made it look insanely easy,” said Kronenberg. “They made handling three children, work, and adult responsibilities look very natural.”

Censabella used some of the resources available at the 919th Special Operations Wing to deal with tough situations. As a single parent, she coordinated through Military One Source and received counseling for her children. She was also able to use available childcare and had her family attend the wing’s family days and resiliency events.

“Seeing my mother and the supportive military community she was a part of motivated me to join and see what it was all about,” said Kronenberg. “I’m glad I did it. Time in the Air Force has made me a better person.”

The shared Air Force experience between Censabella and her son has brought them closer together. She’s able to give him advice and guidance with his career, which has led to them speaking more frequently.

“The kid I saw after basic training was not the kid I dropped off [at Military Entrance Processing,]” said Censabella. “He seemed taller just from his demeanor and how he carried himself.”

Censabella and her son’s service also influenced her young daughter to join the Air Force as well.

“While technically I look down because I’m taller than her, I look up to her for her passion to get stuff done,” said Kronenberg. “If any Airman needs help in any way, and my mother could physically do it, she’ll help anybody any way she can.”

She took that passion to help and became a first sergeant in Oct. 2019. Censabella wanted to be able to assist anyone going through similar situations that she did as a mother in the military.

Mother's Day offers an opportunity to recognize Censabella and other mothers for what they contribute to the mission of the world's greatest Air Force.

“I’m so glad I’ve done what I did because of how my children turned out,” said Censabella. “Any struggle I could’ve gone through to see my kids be where they are now was totally worth it.”

To see more of the diverse stories of Airmen at the 919th Special Operations Wing and the resources available to them, check out the 919th SOW on Facebook and Instagram.