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February Chief's Perspective

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Jefferson, assigned to the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron at at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Dec. 19, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Jefferson, assigned to the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron at at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Dec. 19, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard courtesy photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

It was always my desire to join the military and serve my country. I was not sure if I wanted to make a career of the military but I wanted to serve all the same. The opportunity presented itself and I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Unfortunately after only serving six months, my mother passed and my dad was deceased ten years earlier. My younger sister and brother were without parents and I had to separate from the military in order to take care of them and become their legal guardian. As I explained the current situation to my first sergeant, he informed me that I had options. I could PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to Shaw AFB which is only ten miles from my home. Therefore, I could continue to serve and become a legal guardian for my younger siblings. I’ve always thought the first sergeant job was only to discipline Airmen, not support them. The first sergeant was able to guide me in the right direction and assist me in continuing my aspirations which were to stay in the military.

From that point on, I wanted to pay it forward and make a difference in others’ lives. I was only an airman first class at the time but was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to be a role model or mentor to someone else. Keep in mind rank is not required to be a role model or mentor, we all have the capacity to help others in some kind of way. Perhaps you have the ability to assist someone with their CDC’s, professional military education or train them on their daily tasks. I highly recommend helping others for the benefit of themselves as well as the success of the SCANG.

In the Guard there has always been an obstacle to get Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME) completed due to limited school dates. Satellite EPME was created to allow members of the Guard to get the required training at home station due to difficulties of attending a six-week course in residence at a TDY location. This training is required for promotion and to develop leadership qualities. Successful learning, team building, diversity and managerial communication are examples of the courses taught to develop our future leaders.

I volunteered and was selected to facilitate the course to assist in training the students to meet their required upgrade developmental training. My reward was the personal satisfaction in playing a key role in the development and promotion of our future leaders. 

I still had the drive and desire to guide others in their military career the same way my first sergeant was able to guide me in my career. Upon achieving the rank of master sergeant, I became eligible and applied for first sergeant duties. I was selected for the first sergeant position with the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron. First sergeants provide a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale and quality of life issues within the organization whether deployed or at home station. I consider myself to be a people person and this is perhaps the most rewarding job I obtained in my military career because it enabled me to help a greater number of people.

Let’s take matters a step further in the areas of resiliency. Due to the high numbers of suicide in the military to include the National Guard, there is a need to be more vigilant. We need to pay more attention to our Airmen. We have to look for signs of depression and abnormal behavior. Grief of a deceased loved one, debt, finances and divorce are just a few things that can lead to depression. We have to be proactive in identifying signs from members. Don’t be afraid to ask about welfare and current issues in members lives because they do not always volunteer to seek help. Most of the time, this is when help is truly needed. Once the member shows signs of depression it is our duty to refer them to the appropriate agency (Chaplains Office, Military One Source) for professional help. I encourage everyone to seek help if it is needed and there will not be any reprisals for seeking help.

In closing, remember two things. Everyone has the capacity to help someone and secondly seek out at least one person that you can make a difference in their life.