USC ROTC cadet receives special commissioning in DC, thanks to efforts of the Trojan Family

October 14, 2018

By Matthew Kredell

Jacob Lokshin turned a corner at the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., expecting to find an empty area for the Howard University Air Force ROTC detachment to give him a quick and quiet commissioning ceremony.

When he saw people setting up chairs and flags, he thought they would have to do the commissioning another day because there was an event scheduled. He had no idea that the event was for him, and that a very special guest would be in attendance.

When the USC Air Force ROTC held its commissioning ceremony at the end of the Spring 2018 semester, Lokshin – who joined the program in his final year at USC as part of a unique one-year commissioning option – wasn’t quite ready to be officially commissioned just yet, because he did not have the opportunity to attend field training. He completed the training later in the summer and then moved to Washington, D.C., in preparation for his forthcoming assignment as a logistics readiness officer at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

In such a case, it’s customary for the nearest ROTC detachment to conduct the oath and file the paperwork. However, Lt Col Olivia Nelson, commander of the Air Force ROTC detachment at USC Price School of Public Policy, felt that Lokshin deserved a personal touch for his commissioning.

She worked with Lokshin’s family to have them fly out to Washington, so they could be there in person to watch him be commissioned by Lt Gen Stayce Harris, a USC alumna and mentor to Lokshin.

“I knew I was getting commissioned that day, but I didn’t know of the enormous amount of manpower put in by friends, family and Lt Col Nelson, Lt Gen Harris and her staff, not to mention the detachment at Howard University, who didn’t even know me,” Lokshin said. “I felt like it was more than I deserved, but I was honored. It was a privilege to be commissioned by someone I very much admire.”

With his parents and some local family and friends watching on, printed programs in hand, in the scenic and poignant setting of the Air Force Memorial, Cadet Lokshin was proclaimed by Harris as Second Lieutenant Lokshin of the United States Air Force.

“Any officer can commission another officer, but, traditionally, it’s a deeply personal moment for one to be commissioned, and you want the person who administers the Oath of Office to be someone meaningful to you,” Nelson said. “It really was a fantastic convergence where he happened to be out there, she was out there, they already knew and respected each other, and they are both Trojans. It made sense, and with help from General Harris and the team at Howard University, we were able to make it more special for him.”

Trojan ties

Lokshin had the opportunity to spend a day with Harris in March, when he served as her ROTC escort. Harris visited USC to deliver the keynote address at the school’s annual dinner to honor Veterans and ROTC students. During the day, she took meetings and spoke at various functions around the USC campus. During lunch and breaks, he had the chance to tell her a little about himself, and they bonded over a shared love of jazz.

“She was one of the most uniquely charismatic people I ever met,” Lokshin said. “She was actually experiencing knee pain, as she was recovering from a recent double-knee replacement surgery, yet she was still indefatigably kind and caring to everybody. I asked her how she did that, and she said, ‘If the leader has a bad day, everybody has a bad day. So I can’t have any bad days.’”

Following the ceremony, Harris made the day even more special for Lokshin by arranging a private tour of the Pentagon for him and family.

“Our mutual love of ‘SC, jazz and, most importantly, Air Force service to our nation, made a strong first impression with me,” Harris said of Lokshin. “His background, accomplishments, talents and education are impressive enough in their own right. The conversations we had, the day he served as my escort on campus, were very introspective. So I was extremely pleased Jacob chose to serve our nation through military service, and it was my honor to commission him into the world’s greatest Air Force!”

Ready to lead

Lokshin with Lt Gen Stayce Harris

The one-year Air Force ROTC commissioning program was established to attract exceptional candidates who decided late in the process that they wanted to serve. Typically, ROTC training lasts a full four years. Although the program was offered only once, Lokshin was exactly the sort of student for whom it was created in order to provide a pathway to service.

After entering college as a USC Presidential Scholar, he made the most of his time on campus inside and outside the classroom.

Lokshin was named a USC Gateway Scholar and paired with former Deputy National Security Advisor JD Crouch II as a mentor. Lokshin spent two summers interning in Washington, D.C., at the Middle Defense Advocacy Alliance and the American Enterprise Institute. He also founded and served as president of the USC International Affairs fraternity.

For his academic work, Lokshin was designated a USC Provost Fellow six times, receiving research grants that helped lead to his being published numerous times in scholarly publications. He also completed his honors thesis in history, examining the construction of foreign policy toward Afghanistan during the Carter Administration.

Lokshin was one of 10 graduating seniors to be chosen as a USC Global Scholar prize winner and awarded a $10,000 scholarship toward graduate school.

“He’s indicative of the environment USC creates for students to succeed,” Nelson said. “You couldn’t just go to any campus in the nation and find someone like him and make him ready in one year. I didn’t need to teach Jacob Lokshin to be a leader, as he already learned that through his involvement in student organizations. I didn’t need to teach him to be a critical thinker, as he had already done that through his academic explorations and research. Really, it was just about teaching him the military culture and norms and to apply what he’d learned in a national security context, which was already of great interest to him.”

Lokshin started at Joint Base Andrews on Sept. 1. As a logistics officer, he will immediately be put in a leadership position with responsibility over junior enlisted airmen, but also will be in the process of learning and going through logistics readiness training. In logistics, his job will be to move people, weapons and supplies around to make sure everyone has the resources needed to complete the mission. He will serve for at least four years, and plans to eventually pursue a PhD in international relations.

“The Air Force supports education very energetically, and I really appreciate that,” Lokshin said. “I’ll have a job to do, but along the way I want to make sure to get a better education to do more, to be a more effective team player and to have an impact on the world of U.S. foreign policy.”