Commissioning from afar

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstein
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
It's 3:30 a.m. Sunday on Guam and I'm standing in my condominium in my service dress. At the same time, it's 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in Philadelphia and Cadet Jaclyn Bergstein is standing in the chapel of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in her service dress.

Today, Cadet Bergstein will commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

As servicemembers of the U.S. Armed Forces, we are a part of something greater than ourselves. This job requires us to make certain sacrifices. We do everything we can to avoid it, but sometimes we miss things.

Sometimes we miss birthdays, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations and in my case, my younger sister's commissioning ceremony.

Sometimes, the job we do doesn't always allow us to get home or to be there for our loved ones.

"You're going to commission me when it's time, you know," said my sister Jaclyn one day at Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps' Detachment 750 at Saint Joseph's University. She was at the end of her third year of ROTC and I would be commissioning in just a few short weeks.

Our peers at the detachment called us "Big Berg" and "Little Berg."

It was implied from the day she became a cadet that I'd administer the Oath to my sister at her commissioning ceremony, and I was always excited about the opportunity. But there was no greater feeling than to hear her say that she wanted me to do it and nobody else.

And I told her I would.

That day at the detachment, neither of us could have known that come time for her to pin on those second lieutenant bars I'd be 14 hours ahead of her and more than12,000 miles away--more than half a day ahead and half a world away.

There were several factors that kept me from being able to fly to Philadelphia for the ceremony, but I was determined not to miss it. My sister asked me to be there for her and though I couldn't be there in person, I wasn't about to let her down.

So I suggested that we try Skype. I remember seeing a story on about an enlisted couple in which the wife commissioned as an officer in the states and her husband gave her a first salute over Skype from Southwest Asia.

Why couldn't this work for us?

I stayed up all that night on the day of her ceremony. I prepared my service dress to perfection and I thought about how I felt on my commissioning day just one year before. Once we connected the Skype call I was giddy with excitement, but I had to do my best not to fidget or make noise. The projector was placed directly in the front of the chapel and everyone in attendance could see me.

Jaclyn was the first of her class to get on the platform and have her new gold bars pinned on by our mother and two brothers. My father, who is currently on an extended business trip and also couldn't be there in person, was watching the ceremony also via Skype from a laptop my younger brother brought with him and placed on his chair in the audience.

She turned to me to take the Oath and it took everything in me not to cry.

I'm filled with joy for all the wonderful things that are in store for my baby sister, now a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

Jaclyn will be a security forces officer at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio once she begins her active-duty service.

Sometimes as servicemembers, we have to make sacrifices. In this instance, I may not have been able to be there in person for my sister on the day she became an Air Force officer, but I certainly didn't miss it entirely.

I'd like to thank the cadre and cadets of Detachment 750 who helped make this possible for my family.

It means the world to me when my siblings express their love for me, even if it's just on Facebook. Following commissioning, my sister posted:

"You are the best sister in the whole entire world. I can't wait to tell every person I meet about how my big sister commissioned me into the Air Force from the other side of the world through Skype--probably the best moment of my life so far. Love you more than I can even put into words."

Love you too, Little Lieutenant Berg. Welcome to the Big Air Force.