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Face of Defense: Son Follows in Air Force Parents’ Footsteps

By Air Force Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski
39th Air Base Wing

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, April 16, 2014 – Most recruits catch their first glimpse of the military lifestyle upon arrival at basic military training, when they hurry off of a bus to the sound of loud commands from their new military training instructors.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Ruben Gawan, son of Air Force Chief Master Sgts. Lori and Phillip Gawan, takes the oath of enlistment Nov. 2, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. After 19 years of traveling around the globe with his parents as a military dependent, he decided to enlist in the Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Hedrick

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Forced to put their civilian ways behind them, the trainees are dressed in nameless uniforms and sneakers, signifying their common Air Force beginning.

For most trainees, the extreme structure comes with a sense of shock, but 19-year-old Ruben Gawan has known the Air Force structure throughout his childhood and adolescent life. Having been a military family member for his whole life, he said, he always has known he would follow in the footsteps of his parents, who are both Air Force chief master sergeants.

Gawan will begin his enlisted Air Force journey this summer when he leaves for Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

"Seeing my parents wake up and put on a uniform every day makes me feel like I should wake up and put on a uniform, too," he said.

Gawan grew up on Aviano Air Base, Italy; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; and here. Although moving from base to base was challenging, he said, it became somewhat exciting.

"Earlier in life, it was rough to make friends and then leave," he said. "After a couple times, it became normal."

With help from his Air Force family in the community, Ruben always has made the most of the ongoing changes such as permanent changes of station and deployments, said his mother, Chief Master Sgt. Lori Gawan, the 39th Mission Support Group superintendent. "There has always been someone around to help while I was gone or while his dad was gone," she added.

Having two parents in the military has come with hardships, such as deployments and temporary duty assignments, Ruben said.

"It was different not having my mom there for Christmas or birthdays," he said. "It was hard, but I got through it. It taught me to be patient and mentally strong."

Although there were times they were apart, Ruben said, he and his brother, Nathaniel, have remained positive because the time they do spend together is always worth the wait.

"Both of my parents are very family oriented," he said. His close friends also helped him cope with the inevitable changes, he added.

Ruben said his interest in enlisting in the Air Force was sparked when he moved to Pennsylvania for a year to attend Pennsylvania State University. The change to civilian life, he said, verified that the military was the path for him, as the longing for his past close-knit community encouraged his decision to wear the uniform his parents wear. The airman battle uniform means much more than just a common denominator in his childhood, he said.

"It symbolizes a different kind of respect," said he explained. "It shows you are defending something you can't exactly see."

His father, Chief Master Sgt. Phillip Gawan, the 728th Air Mobility Squadron superintendent, is especially excited to see his son wear the uniform.

"When my son Ruben shared his decision to join our Air Force, I was overwhelmed with emotions and excitement," he said. "Who wouldn't want their child to become a member of the world's greatest Air Force? I was happy, because I know the one thing that our Air Force does best is take care of its most valuable assets -- our airmen."

Ruben said has learned more than how to adapt to change and the traits required to be a great leader.

In his mother’s eyes, he already has shown leadership qualities he will need in his Air Force career.

"He realizes it's not just about him," she said. "It's about the bigger picture -- the team effort that he will be a part of. None of us do it by ourselves."

With the support of his parents and their friends who are a part of Incirlik Air Base Chief's Group, Gawan has a lot of support in his decision to enlist. His family and mentors in the chief's group have provided him with guidance that comes with many years of military experience, he said.

Along the path of change that has led him to his decision to enlist, he added, he realized that his Air Force family will go far beyond his parents.

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