Wesley Brokop and his mother, Ashley Brokop happily hugging after basic training

Raising a Military Child; The Perspective of a Parent

Apr 24, 2024

The month of April is dedicated to all the children whose parents are serving or have served in the military. Parenting is already a difficult task to juggle but imagine the difficulty with both parents being in the service. Ashley Brokop and her husband, Bill Brokop, who is featured in season 2’s episode, Parenting in Military, are both retired Air Force veterans who specialized in combat support. They are parents to three wonderful children, Wesley, Betsy, and Abby. Their first born, Wesley, has chosen to follow in his parents’ footsteps and join the service after witnessing how much it changed their lives for the better. This month, we highlight not only the military child, but the parents that balanced service with parenting. 


An excerpt from Ashley –


"My dream has always been for one of my children to have the opportunities that my husband Bill and I had in the Air Force.  Neither of us were what I would call "regular Air Force."  We were the Air Force that makes the Air Force great, in my humble opinion.  We were in combat-support, highly deployable units.  I was an aerial trained combat photographer, and Bill was a satellite communications troop that supported TACPs (Tactical Control Party) or the guys that called in air support to drop bombs on bad guys.  The go-between of the Air Force air power and superiority and the Army boots on the ground. There were many days that I felt like "should I even accept a paycheck for this" because it was wonderfully adventurous and exciting.  So, when I talk to people in finance, supply, admin, or the medical field it is normally a totally different Air Force that we supported, both important, but wildly different.  

    My son Wesley is smart, he is fit, he is bright, motivated, and he is brave. He has had a dream of being in special warfare since I can remember.  He has dressed up in Air Force gear as his Halloween costume for YEARS. His junior year he got serious about this option for his future. He started training- running, lifting, doing push-ups and pull-ups, and getting a lot stronger.  He got.a ruck sack for his birthday and started rucking with weights.  We hired a swim instructor to help improve his combat side stroke. and to give tips to enable him to get faster.  He was committed to be an Air Force Special Warfare Candidate.  His goal was to do Pararescue or TACP.


    To become a candidate, you must complete: eight pullups, 50 situps and 40 pushups, each in under two minutes; a 1.5-mile run within 10:20; a 500-meter surface swim in 15 minutes; and two 25-meter underwater swims that are graded as pass/fail.

    His first tries he did not pass.  He failed the swim (which is why we hired a swim instructor). He also needed to shave 30 seconds or so off of his run time to be considered.

    He trained at the YMCA weekly.  He would alternately run outside. He finally passed his initial fitness test, then had to complete it another time or two to have two passing scores in 90 days so that he could ship out to basic training, which he left for in January of this year.  

    Upon getting to basic he sees a big difference in the special warfare side of the Air Force and the regular Air Force.   He is in a special warfare flight that trains differently and more intensely, prepping these trainees for the special warfare pipeline which has a 86-90% attrition rate.  There is a difference he appreciates.  He is fit, he works out when he isn't asked, he eats clean foods, and he takes pride in his uniform.  He feels at home in Special Warfare around people that also value these things.  He gets a nickname of "John Cena" and "John Cena's baby cousin" which totally suits Wes, and I thought quite funny.  He loved this group of guys and looked forward to getting through the next year and a half alongside these new brothers.  

    Toward the end of training a group of them were being "smoked in PT" by one of the SpecWar Cadre and they were doing sprints in boots.  Wesley's shins were hurting pretty badly. Quite a few guys were hurt that day.  The military training instructors (MTIs) warned that if anyone had ANY pain that they needed to report to sick call or else, they were threatened in a way that- Wesley as a rule-follower- felt obligated to go have his shins checked out.  He was seen and they didn't look good, so he was sent to have an MRI.  We waited with bated breath and praying fervently begging God for healing (if it was His will) only to find out he had class 3 fractures (there is a 1-4 classification, with 4 being the worst).  He was immediately re-classed.  (Out of the running for Pararescue) He was shocked and frustrated but also knew that having a shin break during the next 1-2 years of training would be devastating.  

    The crazy thing was Wesley had been put on medical hold after graduating basic waiting for a diagnosis, and that the next SWCC (Special Warfare Candidate Course) wouldn't start for at least 7 weeks.  They would not allow him to heal during that time on extended medical hold. There were plenty of people in that situation, healing on med hold...

    Wesley is not deflated as he has other options on his dream sheet (a list of preferred jobs that you create).  The only problem is that when Wes is sent to the job placement office his dream sheet is full of jobs he never listed, some he has never even heard of.  To make a long story short he is told that there isn't time to get some necessary tests so that he is able to qualify for many jobs.  The civilian contractor tells him he can do admin, or supply.things like this.  Wesley has a good ASVAB score of 73, he is fit, he is smart...supply requires an ASBAB score of 31!  I am not downplaying the importance of our supply because as they say "you can't fly without supply" but Wesley has been looking and dreaming of filling an elite job for over a decade, of saving lives and making a difference.  

    The civilian tells him that these are his choices and that if he is lying about not being the one to pick these jobs that he would be in hot water.  Wesley felt he had no way to prove that he didn't pick these jobs. (The civilian is harsh and rude, and this is Wesley's future on the line) So the list is sent in and sure enough the next day his orders come in- supply.  Not firefighter, not Special Mission Aviator, not loadmaster or boom operator.... supply.  It makes me cry thinking about this as so much potential is being overlooked.  

    After a week or so of grieving this we are all on the same page that Wes will be the best stinking supply troop that the Air Force has ever seen.  He is studying hard and hopes to get distinguished graduate.  I keep reminding him, this is his movie playing out.  His comeback story is being written as we speak.  How he handles this disappointment is totally up to him.  We have left it in God's hands and evidently God wants Wes right where he is.  

    Good news- I reached out to Air Force friends the week we were waiting for Wesley to get re-classed and one friend made calls to her friends in higher places and the civilian in the job placement office has been replaced with a Staff Sergeant that is awesome and accommodating.  Wesley has been told that a few guys washed out of the Special Warfare program this week and got jobs off of their dream sheets, their real, self-created dream sheets.

    This story is not over, but I believe that we have to be advocates for each other.  I am so grateful for my friend who advocated for Wesley and now has helped make a way for future airman that end up re-classed.    Air Force retention rates are not good, so why not get good airman in good jobs?  Everyone deserves a comeback story!"


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” - Dr. Seuss