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First sergeant, foster dad believes in second chances

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Annabel Monroe
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Just outside of Great Falls, Montana, a Malmstrom family stands together on a well-maintained green lawn, catching some shade as they celebrate in the sunny afternoon heat.

The party is in honor of the finalized adoption of their eldest son, previously a foster child who lived with them for four and a half years, off and on.

“One of the similarities I see in both parenting and first sergeant responsibilities is that life is full of second chances,” said Master Sgt. Justin Tayler, 341st Missile Wing Staff Agency and Operations Group first sergeant. “In both roles, I’m given the opportunity to pull together resources and offer positive solutions.”

The first sergeant’s role in the Air Force is one that is time-honored, rich in customs and traditions. They derive authority from unit commanders and are a critical link in providing a mission-ready enlisted force.

Justin became a first sergeant in December 2015 and primarily supports the mission through interaction and management of Airmen and families.

“Some issues are easy to help solve or guide along,” said Justin. “Other times an Airman’s situation could leave you wondering where to start.”

According to Justin, parenting can also leave you wondering where to start. The Tayler family has learned valuable lessons in fostering children in need.

In Montana, foster parents take care of children who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents or other caretakers. Foster parents provide an environment that protect and promote the well-being of a child or children.

The Tayler family first decided to foster children in 2011. After completion of a three-day class with the Department of Family Services, in-depth background investigations, reference interviews, a home study and home inspection, they were cleared to foster their first child.

“It’s hard having to say good bye,” said Lori Tayler, wife and mother.

They took care of their first child for over a year and a half, providing a safe, supportive environment and easing transition and rehabilitation.

“We’ve had what I call ‘long-term’ foster kids who have been with us for a year and a half or longer,” Justin said. “Having them in your life for that long, they become your family, your kids…it’s heartbreaking when they leave.

“So when the option to adopt these kiddos is available, it’s an easy decision,” he continued.

They adopted their youngest son and daughter in August 2015.

“It’s hard to put into words really,” said Lori. “They’ve been a part of our family since the day they arrived. To have an adoption finalized is a great feeling.”

Being a first sergeant or foster parent requires strong leadership skills, patience, a genuine concern for the well-being of people and time and energy to invest in others.

“As it turns out, parenting isn’t as easy as I once thought,” Justin said with a chuckle.

In total, the Tayler family has fostered 10 children and adopted three.

The journey took nearly five years. They have celebrated each adoption with a party, honoring the newest ‘official’ member and included family and friends.

“We couldn’t have done this alone,” said Justin. “We’ve had so much support from friends, family and other foster parents.”

The role of taking care of Airmen and enriching the lives of children often parallel.

“As you teach healthy behaviors, discipline, routine and consistent expectations you can see it manifest in people,” said Justin. “We learn to deal with what life throws our way.”

To be effective at one’s job from day-to-day operations to nuclear deterrence and assurance, Airmen must be ready and equipped with the right tools and training to do the job. To be the best possible parent one must invest in themselves and into ensuring others grow.

“Experience is life’s greatest teacher,” he added. “These experiences have helped me understand people and use different tools to reach those who couldn’t otherwise be reached.”