By Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams, 940th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 30, 2018
2nd Lt. Vesper M. Yasahardja, 940th Maintenance Group maintenance operations flight commander, stands in front of a KC-135 Stratotanker April 8 at Beale Air Force Base, California. Yasahardja spent more than eight years as an enlisted Airman before commissioning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara R. Abrahams)
Vesper M. Yasahardja kneels as her daughter Aubrey, 2, and husband, Staff Sgt. Matius “Yoshi” Yasahardja, pin the rank of second lieutenant onto her shoulders March 16 at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Vesper is the 940th Maintenance Group maintenance operations flight commander. (Courtesy photo)
After serving more than eight years as an enlisted member of the Air Force Reserve, Vesper M. Yasaharda took off her technical sergeant stripes to begin her journey as an officer. She graduated Air Force Officer Training School March 16, 2018, and pinned on the rank of second lieutenant.
“I had always toyed with commissioning from the time I joined since I already had my degree,” she said.
Though her education wasn’t what ultimately drove Yasahardja to take the officer route.
“I wanted to lead from a bigger scale and remove obstacles the enlisted members face when they’re trying to accomplish the mission,” the second lieutenant said.
She first gained perspective of the enlisted forces when she began her military career. She joined as a traditional reservist because she was unsure how she would feel about wearing the uniform as active-duty.
“I was kind of testing the waters,” Yasahardja said. “I had family members in the military and always had a great deal of respect for the military. I thought I would enjoy it, but you never know until you try.”
The way she looked at it, if she enjoyed serving, she could try to find a full-time position. If not, she could manage the minimal requirement of one weekend per month and two weeks per year. It didn’t take long for her to make her decision.
“I just absolutely fell in love with it,” said the Birmingham, Alabama, native. “I love that you can see the impact you’re having every day.”
Through the years, she put her best efforts into her work and the mission, but found she wasn’t able to do her job alone. As an enlisted Airman, she found herself running into issues that couldn’t be solved at her level. Whether the problem was with equipment or needing help from another unit, the solution often fell in the hands of the officers above her.
Their impacts and leadership continued to influence her ambitions to become an officer. After the birth of her daughter, she began thinking more seriously why she hadn’t tried commissioning yet. Yasahardja wanted to prove to herself she could do it, as well as better things for her family and be a good example for her daughter.
In January 2016, she decided it was time to give it a shot. She began the process through the Reserve’s Deserving Airman Commissioning Program. It took 14 months before she was accepted into the program.
“There were some days I would wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” said the Reserve Citizen Airman. “But my leadership reminded me everyone faces hurdles in their commissioning journey… Nothing worth having comes easily.”
Finally, in January 2018, she began OTS. Just when she thought she had made it through the toughest part- getting accepted and waiting for a school date, she found herself dealing with something even harder.
“I struggled with the mom guilt a lot because I’d never left my daughter,” she said. “But I know parents have to do that. That’s part of the military. I’d think about the others who’d left their children for deployment or trainings and things like that, so I knew I wasn’t alone.”
Yasahardja found it hardest in the first few weeks of the program because the officer candidates didn’t have daily access to their phones. She and her flightmates were only allowed one phone call on the weekend, but she still wasn’t able to speak with her daughter.
“She’d be so mad at me for not being home, she didn’t want to talk to me. That was really hard.”
Those feelings of guilt left Yasahardja rethinking her decision to go to OTS and even questioning if she wanted to finish the course. She thought ‘is it worth it? Should I go back to my unit and become a first sergeant instead?’
But then, in those moments of struggles, she would think about what it would teach her daughter if she quit and why she decided to go to OTS in the first place. She also remembered all the people and leadership who advocated for her to get there and how she didn’t want to let them down.
“I would remind myself, this is not purely selfish. Other people saw something in me and believed in me. I need to see this through. I knew I wouldn’t regret it if I finished it and I would be happy once it was done.”
One day at a time, she got through it and things got a little easier. After the first month, her flight earned more phone privileges and she was able to call her family daily.
“About the second or third day, my daughter finally came around and talked to me. She knew at dinnertime, every day, Momma would call.”
A few weeks later, Yasahardja completed OTS and swore in as an Air Force officer. Her two-year-old daughter, Aubrey, and husband, Staff Sgt. Matius “Yoshi” Yasahardja, came to her graduation and pinned her new rank on her shoulders. That proud moment came with thanks to her family and leadership at Beale.
“It really takes a team to accomplish things,” she said. “That’s something you learn more and more through your Air Force career.”
The commissioning process gave her another look at how officers and leaders help their Airmen.
“It reminded me that our people are our greatest asset,” Yasahardja said. “From E1-O10, people are what make the mission happen. You have to look out for your people.
Now, as the 940th Air Refueling Wing’s Maintenance Group maintenance operations flight commander, Yasahardja has new goals. First and foremost, she plans to continue training and becoming a fully qualified maintenance officer. She is working on learning the sections within her group and how she can help her Airmen achieve their goals.
“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have good leadership that’s always looked out for their people, so I want to do that for mine.”
(Each month, we share a story of a reservist through a photo, simple quote or article. The goal of this project, similar to the 9th Public Affairs' Faces of Beale, is to learn more about Citizen Airmen. Whether traditional or full-time, every reservist has a unique story and adds to what makes us part of the world's greatest Air Force.)