Commissioning beyond borders

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Any officer can say that his or her commissioning ceremony was a special moment. Some might even describe it as a personal experience because family members were involved, but how many can claim they were delivered the oath of office by their father
in Baghdad through a video teleconference?

2nd Lt. Marie Bachran can.

On Monday morning, then-Cadet Bachran and her guests were escorted into the Piper Auditorium in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. The atmosphere was tense and anxious; with a ninehour time difference and any number of possible technical complications, many things could have gone wrong. The family looked weary as everyone ran on an hour of sleep due to a deer-and-vehicle incident early that morning. However, faces lit up as the operator in Baghdad connected to Army Lt. Col.
John Trankovich and his image appeared on the screen next to the one reflecting his family's smiles.

The ceremony officially began at 8:30 a.m. when Col. Brian Brown, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 847 commander and Professor of Aerospace Science at Angelo State University, gave the opening remarks. He pointed out that this commissioning over video teleconference was "a first in the history of Det 847 and a first in the history of Goodfellow."

As Col. Trankovich started to recite the oath of office, the commissionee's voice began to waver with emotion while she repeated his words. The mood was intense and on-lookers began to tear up as well.

This isn't Col. Trankovich's first commissioning; as a former ROTC instructor, he has plenty of experience. However, as he finished the oath with "Congratulations lieutenant" just like he's always done, he couldn't help but take a second look.

"I looked closer, past the uniform, and saw my daughter - the infant born the night I made my first solo flight in a helicopter, helped teach how to walk, read, ride a bike, and drive and get through high school, dating and into a great marriage - and there she was," he said.

"Marie was pinning on the very gold bars I wore as a second lieutenant," the colonel said. "She earned them." Col. Trankovich, described by his first-born daughter as a "very, very quiet, introverted man," was overcome with emotion. "I tried hard not to get all teary-eyed, and almost did it," he explained. "I was one proud dad and my eyes started to water, but then she surprised me by saluting me. That straightened me out."

Lt. Bachran wasn't able to hold out like her father, and her eyes watered with tears of joy as her family pinned gold bars to her shoulders. She knew this moment would have a huge impact on her father.

"This is a really cool thing for my dad. He's really, really excited," she said the evening before her commissioning. "This is a big moment for him because I'm kind of following in his footsteps, but I'm doing it my own way," she continued. Lt. Bachran said her father always wanted her to do things the military way, and for a long time, she didn't want to. "But one day I thought, 'I'll give it a try,'" she said.

Lt. Bachran didn't always have ambitions to be in the military.

"Marie's decision to serve in the Air Force came as a bit of a surprise," described Col. Trankovich. "While we were in South Carolina and she was in high school, she never wanted anything to do with the military, to include any high school JROTC."

However, an assignment in high school changed her whole perspective. The paper was about her personal hero, and she chose her father. Lt. Bachran explained that after she wrote about his experiences and sacrifices, she was inspired to make the decision to serve.

When her father was stationed in the United Arab Emirates in 2002, she had to make a decision: either go to college or go overseas with her family. Lt. Bachran chose school. With her grandmother in Midland, she narrowed her prospects to Texas Tech or Angelo
State University. Although she was offered both Army and Air Force ROTC scholarships, she decided on ASU, which only hosts Air Force ROTC, because she loves the school's
attitude.

"ASU had more for me," she explained, referring to the program's flexibility and willingness to accommodate a demanding nursing curriculum. However, her view of military service is unbiased. "Serving your country, no matter what branch you're in - Army, Air Force, Marine Corps or Navy - it's all the same. I just wanted to serve."

Marie Bachran has come a long way to become an Air Force officer. She may be freshly commissioned, but she is not new to the military way-of-life. She and her husband 2nd Lt. Stephen Bachran, both Army brats, feel they are ready for their military careers.

"It's a lifestyle we understand and are prepared for," she said. In September, the newly commissioned lieutenant will attend an intensive 10-week nursing course at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. "I hope to
be selected for the critical care unit; my passion is ER," Lt. Bachran said. "I was a Discovery Channel kid and always loved watching people get better fast, getting help fast."