BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- Army Maj. Kenneth Hynes watches as 1st Lt. Eric Johnston repeats his oath given via video conference May 26 by Maj. Gary Barlet at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Lieutenant Johnston, and his wife, 1st Lt. Sheila Johnston, were promoted together although they were separated by more than 7,000 miles. He and Major Hynes are assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Pennisula here. Major Barlet is the 47th Communications Squadron commander at Laughlin, where the lieutenant is deployed from. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ryan Creel)
LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Maj. Gary Barlet administers the oath of office to 1st Lts. Eric and Sheila Johnston during their promotion ceremony via video conference May 26. She is assigned to the 47th Flying Training Wing's public affairs office here, and her husband is deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq. Major Barlet is the 47th Communications Squadron commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olufemi A. Owolabi)
LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Glenn Johnston pins new rank on his son's service dress coat during a video conference promotion ceremony, as his wife pins the hat. Their son, 1st Lt. Eric Johnston, is deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq. The lieutenant's wife, 1st Lt. Sheila Johnson, (far left) also was promoted during the ceremony. She is assigned to the 47th Flying Training Wing's public affairs office here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olufemi A. Owolabi)
by Capt. Paula F. Kurtz
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
5/27/2005 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Separation proved no obstacle for a couple here May 26 as they were promoted to first lieutenant together via computer-based video conference while geographically separated by more than 7,000 miles.
First Lts. Eric Johnston, who is deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, and Sheila Johnston, of the 47th Flying Training Wing public affairs office, held simultaneous ceremonies here and at Balad to celebrate their promotions.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to use technology to put us together for this very sentimental event," said the deployed lieutenant who is assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula.
With the help and enthusiasm of co-workers at both locations, the couple arranged a webcast for the event so that each location could see and hear what was happening on the other end.
“All you need these days is a couple of computers and an Internet connection,” said Maj. Gary Barlet, 47th Communication Squadron commander. “Because of technology, ceremonies like this are becoming more and more common, but the really important thing technology does is bring families together for a special day like today. They will remember this for the rest of their lives.”
For Glenn and Becky Johnston, who traveled eight hours from Vernon, Texas, to attend their son and daughter-in-law’s unique ceremony, this could not be more true. Not only were they able to witness their son’s first promotion, but they participated as well. As his new bars were pinned on by Army co-workers at Balad, his parents replaced gold with silver on his service dress coat here.
“It’s another step along the way,” Mrs. Johnston said. “The Air Force has always been his dream, and this is re-enforcement that he’s really following his dream.”
While the original purpose of the video conference may have been about sharing a promotion ceremony, the greatest benefit may be the peace of mind it gave to his parents.
“You can’t really put it into words,” Mr. Johnston said. “We e-mail every day and have talked to him on the phone a couple of times, but visual is so much better … to see him smiling and giving the thumbs-up and know that he’s OK.”
“Until you see him, you can only imagine where he is and what he’s doing,” Mrs. Johnston echoed. “It’s good to know he’s safe.”
Shortly after the lieutenant’s deployment in February, the couple missed their second wedding anniversary. Having graduated and commissioned together, the two were determined to share their promotion ceremony.
“A lot of officers I’ve met don’t celebrate their first promotion because they say, ‘It’s just first lieutenant.’ But when your husband commissions you, it only seems right to share other milestones like this with him as well,” Lieutenant Johnston said. “And why let a little puddle get in the way?”
At their commissioning in May 2003, the husband took his oath first, then turned and commissioned his wife. This time, the couple decided to switch it up. While the few moments’ difference may not seem significant to Air Force officials, the lieutenant here said it is an important factor “when it comes to who’s doing the dishes at home.”