Washington-based Coast Guardsman soars at Airman Leadership School

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They drive boats, pilot aircraft, fix engines and maintain hulls.

They enforce laws, troubleshoot issues, prepare meals and perform administrative tasks.

They defend the nation, protect the environment and save lives.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson , a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., poses for a photo in front of the MFPU Bangor office, July 25, 2014. Jackson attended the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and was nominated by her peers and instructors to receive the Commandant’s Award for her leadership ability while at school. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer)

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson poses for a photo in front of the MFPU Bangor office, July 25, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer)

Coast Guardsmen wear many hats, but at the end of the day they are all one thing: leaders.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson, a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor in Silverdale, Washington, leads crews in escorting high-value naval assets in and out of port. She also works closely with local agencies to communicate the unit’s mission and regularly volunteers in her community.

“When you talk about junior petty officers, she is the person you want on your team,” said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Ryan Allen, command senior chief of MFPU Bangor. “She’s always been an outstanding performer, and she continues to go above and beyond in her duties.”

It was Jackson’s exceptional performance and dedication to her job that prompted Allen to nominate her for acceptance into the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School, an Air Force leadership school for junior non-commissioned officers. The school is mandatory for airmen, but occasionally a class will have room for a student from another military branch.

Jackson was accepted into the school and reported to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, June 4, 2014, for a five-week course.

While at school, the Evanston, Wyoming, native was evaluated on her public speaking ability, interpersonal counseling skills and appearance in uniform. She wrote subordinate evaluations, completed case studies and participated in group physical fitness training exercises.

“The most valuable thing I learned was humility,” said Jackson. “Week after week, I really saw myself grow more as a person and I truly learned what kind of leader I can be for others. The class taught me the importance of how to slow down my thinking process and see things through more clearly, while also achieving and demanding the highest levels of success for myself and others around me.”

In addition to the demanding coursework, the dedicated Coast Guardsman had to face another challenge: being an island of blue in a sea of grey camouflage.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson (middle), a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., poses for a photo with her fellow classmates of the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School class 14-E at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., July 2014. Graduating from ALS is an advancement requirement for all Air Force junior non-commissioned officers.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson (middle) poses for a photo with her fellow classmates of the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School class 14-E at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., July 2014.

“At first I felt extremely out of place,” said Jackson. “The more I got to know my classmates and began to understand how Air Force professional military education training works, it got easier. I had high expectations for myself and so did my unit, so I felt as though I had to work harder to try and understand a completely different environment and new processes.”

Not only did Jackson come to understand her new environment, she thrived in it. At the end of the course, Jackson was nominated by her fellow peers and instructors as a finalist for the Commandant’s Award. The award honors the student who displayed the best leadership qualities and provided the most assistance to the class as a whole.

Jackson and three other candidates were given an oral board, where they were asked questions about effective communication, leadership and their views on the future of the military services.

“She never said ‘me’ or ‘I,’” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Timur Kuzu, commandant of the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School. “She always talked as ‘we’ or ‘the team.’ She showed a selfless attitude that pulled her apart from the rest of the class. They really respected her.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson, a maritime enforcement specialist assigned to Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor in Silverdale, Wash., accepts the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School Commandant’s Award from Air Force Col. David Kumashiro (left), commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, command chief of the 62nd Airlift Wing, during the graduation ceremony for ALS class 14-E at JBLM, July 10, 2014. Jackson was nominated by her fellow classmates and school instructors for the award because of her leadership skills.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Whitney Jackson accepts the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School Commandant’s Award from Air Force Col. David Kumashiro (left), commander of the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake, command chief of the 62nd Airlift Wing, during the graduation ceremony for ALS class 14-E at JBLM, July 10, 2014.

Jackson was selected as the winner of the Commandant’s Award. She was also invited back for the following class’ graduation as a guest master of ceremonies. She still keeps in touch with many members of her class and the instructors.

“I hate that she’s in the Coast Guard, because I’d hire her if she were here,” said Kuzu. “She represented well. She’d be a great addition to anyone’s staff.”

As every military member knows, developing leadership skills is a never-ending process. True leaders are always learning and changing their approach based on the needs of those they serve.

“This is an experience I will be able to keep with me for the rest of my life, and I will always remember important leadership lessons from the class,” said Jackson. “These lessons will help me every day while I’m leading others in the Coast Guard and will remain with me for the entire duration of my career.”

On land, water and in the air, junior military leaders continue to strive for greatness in all that they do. They educate, motivate and inspire others to put it all on the line.

No matter what the task, Jackson and thousands of other Coast Guard leaders stand ready to answer the call.

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One Comment

  1. Randy says:

    I’m former Air Force and have a son in the Coast Guard. Glad to see the two branches working together and respecting one another. This is a good article and teaches important lessons that all young Coasties, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines should know.