In the Air National Guard it is common to refer to unit members as a guard family.
In the 168th Wing at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, that’s quite literal. Members both function as and are a tight-knit family, sharing last names and legacies.
Of the unit’s 721 members, there are more than 15 sets of siblings.
Brothers Senior Airman Asa Bergamaschi and Senior Airman Shawn Bergamaschi, both 168th Maintenance Squadron propulsion specialists, work in the engine shop and enlisted one after the other.
“When I picked this shop to work in, I didn’t know [Shawn] was in it,” said Asa Bergamaschi in an email. “Working with Shawn has motivated me to try to be a better mechanic by working hard to see who can do the job better and/or faster.”
Shawn shared his experience with his younger brother who was attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the time. Within a year, Asa had met with a recruiter and found himself attending the same basic military training and technical training as his older brother.
The brothers found themselves working side by side: Shawn teaching Asa during drill weekends.
“Working with my younger sibling does keep things in the ‘norm’ as far as being a leader/older sibling,” Shawn said in an email. “I watched as Asa learned our job and I was able to throw in a few pointers on what makes the job easier or less messy because I knew what he could handle direction wise.”
Capt. Brian Binkley, 168th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, and Staff Sgt. Aaron Binkley, 168th Operations Support Squadron combat crew communications technician, are brothers who also work together in the wing.
“You have more things you can relate to with your family as you carry out your career over the years,” Brian said. “We get to be each other’s cheerleaders essentially.”
“We don’t typically work in the same room, but my favorite memory is the time [Brian] flew me and my wife to Hawaii in a KC-135R,” Aaron said. “My brother was the pilot. How cool is that?”
While the Binkleys and Bergamaschis work together, other siblings serve the mission from different shops.
Capt. Sarah Willey, 168th Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron officer, said that her brother, Senior Airman Dylan Latham, 168th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance specialist, showed her the capabilities of Airmen in the sheet metal shop on a tour.
“I got to see the sand blasters, spray booth and so many other exciting tools that give them the ability to make just about anything we need,” Willey said. “I was excited about things I’ve never been introduced to before.”
Willey and Latham’s father retired from the 168th Wing after 35 years of service.
“What I like most about having my brother in the guard is that we get to serve our nation and state together and carry out the legacy of our father,” Willey said.
Master Sgt. Rebekah Miller, retention recruiter for the 168th Wing, said there aren’t numbers indicating Airmen continue to serve because of family but the siblings planted across the wing are proof alone.
Miller has worked in retention since 2006 for two guard units. Guardsmen visit her at the beginning of their careers to talk about the opportunities ahead of them and reconnect with her over the course of their careers.
“Siblings, children, spouses — when they are a part of what we are a part of, the importance of that organization feels more impactful,” Miller said.
Benefits, experience, knowledge and training are a few things siblings cite as reasons they serve.
Perhaps the best part is achieving the same mission.
“Working together has made it easier to show up when I’m expected to and all that I’ve learned to do has really paid off,” Asa said.
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