Brothers from Another Mother “B”

By Commander Andrew Ledford ’95, USN, and Commander Kurt Janke ’95, USN

In the cavernous lecture room of Chauvenet Hall during the Naval Academy’s faculty orientation in September 2017, two orientees sat side-by-side after a 26-year journey of friendship that started as plebes. Then-Midshipmen Fourth Class Kurt Janke and Andrew Ledford both joined the lightweight crew team in 1991 as walk-ons with little rowing experience. The close bonds formed that year rowing eights on the Severn would continue over the next three decades with 21 duty stations in five countries, three combat zones and land them back where they started—in Annapolis, now as professors.

Although in separate battalions, their friendship grew quickly with each year on the crew team and holidays spent with the Janke family in Tionesta, PA, or summers with the Ledford family in San Antonio, TX. Both families quickly grew accustomed to visiting the Academy and knowing that it would always be a package deal with the two midshipmen. Even the international arm of the Ledford family living in Sydney, Australia, experienced their brotherhood during a 1993 Christmas break visit. The deep friendship formed in Bancroft Hall would soon be tested as each graduated and headed to the fleet. In May 1995, Ensign Janke, USN, left Annapolis for Pensacola, FL, to join the aviation community as a naval flight officer eventually flying E-2’s. Second Lieutenant Ledford, USMC, checked into The Basic School followed by the Infantry Officer Course and multiple deployments with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines in Kaneohe Bay, HI.

The newly-minted officers quickly experienced the tumultuous lifestyle of multiple deployments overseas, but continued to keep in touch. In the days before Facebook and Skype, communication was a sporadic phone call or letter every four to six months. Attending classmates’ weddings were often the few times that pulled them from the corners of the world back together again. As the best man of each other’s weddings, the bonds at the Naval Academy were now also solidified with their spouses. The addition of kids—three for Kurt and four for Andrew—also brought their families together. As teenagers, the Janke children were shocked to find out that “Uncle Andrew” was not actually related by blood.

Many overseas duty stations for the Janke family made reunions difficult, but not impossible. The families reunited in London several times and spent time over several summers camping in the Adirondack Mountains. Over the years, the two began to plan for at least one duty station together. Ledford, now in naval special warfare, and Janke, with the E-2 community, agreed that Annapolis would be the ideal location for the two families to “grow old” together.

The first opportunity was in 2013 when a leadership position opened at the Naval Academy as a permanent military professor. With quite a bit of luck, Ledford nabbed the job. Janke’s opportunity came three years later with a position opening in the fall of 2017 teaching in the weapons department.

Twenty-two years after their graduation, both would be among the faculty of the Naval Academy at the same time. At orientation as the academic dean discussed the roles of new faculty in developing midshipmen and the special bonds formed on the Yard, Ledford and Janke sat quietly knowing the extent of what it meant.

Source: Jan-February 2018 Shipmate

 

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