Passing the torch: Continuing a family legacy of service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. William A. O’Brien
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

After nearly 30 years of service, a 170th Air National Guard Airman’s final act as an officer was to commission her son, whose first act as an officer was to formalize his mother’s retirement.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Leavitt, who started as an active duty enlisted Airman, concluded her career as her oldest son, 2nd Lt. Draven Oberlink, took the first steps of his, marking their family’s continued journey of service to the United States, which Leavitt says dates back to the American Revolution.

“It was so special when we realized his commissioning was going to line up with my retirement,” said Leavitt. “The feeling of passing the baton onto the next one.”

Oberlink, who just graduated as an ROTC cadet at the University of Nebraska Detachment 470, the same school and detachment his mother attended, following an internship at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, now moves on to Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, to continue training as a Space Force officer.

“I am going to be a space operator,” he said. “There’s a lot of different avenues you can go with it, but I’m hoping to be lift. Essentially the launch of projectiles such as putting satellites into space.”

Leavitt plans to stay in the area while her youngest child finishes high school. The upstate New York native then plans to settle down in North Carolina where she and her husband plan to leverage their decades of military training and leadership into a business venture.

“My husband and I are both retired from the military, and we want to use all the skills we’ve learned over the years for something completely different,” said Leavitt. “Instead of planning a war, we will be working out how to make the best coffee.”

Oberlink entered Det. 470 prior to the inception of the Space Force. Since then, he’s spent a lot of time talking about the core values and what it means to serve with his mom.

“At the beginning of your career, integrity first is the toughest to live by. You’re young the people around you might be getting into trouble,” said Leavitt. “Later on, you’re married, service before self becomes more difficult because your family is such a priority. Then toward the end of your career, excellence in all you do becomes the biggest challenge because you’re so task saturated and you’re responsible for so much.”

Oberlink said witnessing his mother’s service firsthand and living through the unique challenges of military life, such as attending eight different elementary schools due to all the moving his mother did as part of the Air Force, equipped him with skills that will serve him well in the military.

“Growing up that way I had a better idea what to expect,” said Oberlink. “I got really good at meeting people and making meaningful connections quickly. And the guidance along the way. I know if I pick up the phone six years from now and I’m like ‘I have an issue I don’t know how to deal with,’ she’ll be like ‘yeah, we’ve dealt with something like this before.’”

As they go their separate ways on their new journeys, they both can rely on their military training and the experience they gained through military life.

“I’m really proud the next generation is ready to pick up where I left off,” said Leavitt.