By Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2019
RAF MILDENHALL, England -- (This feature is Part two of the four-part “Diamonds shine bright” series on www.mildenhall.af.mil. These stories focus on different first sergeants, highlighting their Air Force story)
The philosophy of the men and women chosen to take of care U.S. Airmen, both young and old, has always been one of compassion, understanding and treating others as you would want to be treated, during good times, bad times and times that test all those involved.
These “diamond wearers” make the choice to live by a mantra that “Every Airman has a story” and they use this advantage to help everyone in their charge become a better version of themselves.
As such, Senior Master Sgt. Michael Jackson, 100th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, fervently believes in living by this concept day-to-day, doing anything possible to ensure in its success.
“As a first sergeant, it’s about being there when nobody else wants to be,” Jackson expressed. “From the day I took this post, I’ve learned that just because somebody may have been accused of something, doesn’t mean you automatically shun them and immediately punish them.”
Jackson has had many rewarding experiences during his career, but one case in particular showed how simply being there for one of his young Airman gave him an even greater sense of accomplishment.
“There was a situation where one of my troops was going through a court-martial,” Jackson said. “Anyone with a vast experience knows how scary a time like this could be, but I was there for every moment, and I had the pleasure of becoming close with the Airman’s mother during that time.
“I took her where she needed to go and made sure she was ok as much as her child was. This had a profound impact on me because I stood back and said ‘hey, what I do truly matters in the lives of everyone around me.”
Before Jackson was able help change the lives of Airmen in his charge, he had to begin his own Air Force career, and his military life began long before his own enlistment.
A proud military “brat,” Jackson was born in Pohang City, South Korea, to an Air Force father and a native South Korean mother. However, due to his father wanting to provide stability, Jackson would spend much of his life in the Upper Midwest of the United States.
“From kindergarten all the way through graduation, my family and I lived in the great state of South Dakota,” Jackson explained. “My father was tired of PCSing and moving all the time, so we settled down and I was able to experience military life from a young age.”
Living in this part of the country, Jackson grew up playing football, basketball, baseball and running track. His love for the Minnesota Vikings also grew strong, and continues to this very day.
After graduation, Jackson began his own Air Force career at Yokota Air Base, Japan, as a post office member, but the opportunity to grow as an Airman would come in following years.
“Like most young people, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, even with my dad being in the military,” Jackson said. “But when I decided to enlist, I came in Open Administration, received my first assignment to Japan, and loved the experience and culture, so I knew I made the right decision.”
The next part of his journey took him to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, as an information manager, then onto Kapaun Air Station and Ramstein Air Base, both in Germany, where he also began supervisory duties and realized the impact he could make on Airmen.
“It was a struggle at first trying to figure out various personalities and how to supervise, because it was so much different from what I’ve ever known,” Jackson stated. “I went from working on my own, to suddenly taking care of 80 people. But, I realized being there for them every day was what peaked my interest in becoming a first sergeant.”
Subsequently, Jackson’s first sergeant career began at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, and he never looked back.
“As soon as I arrived, I told my leadership I wanted to become a shirt,” Jackson conveyed. “My commander advised I wait a year, which I did, and once I was accepted I was assigned to both the 47th Operations Group and Security Forces Squadron as their ‘diamond wearer.’”
Jackson eventually arrived at RAF Mildenhall to become the first sergeant of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, and most recently filled the same position with the 100th Maintenance Squadron.
Now with his feet firmly planted in England, Jackson has been able to reflect, finish his education and continue the legacy of being a confidant for those who need him.
“This job has truly made me a more patient person, and helped me realize everyone is different,” Jackson said. “Some people want more reasoning, some need a ‘carrot’ to get things done and there are those who want to excel right from the start.
“However, I remind my troops to take care of themselves before they take care of others. Spend time with your family; I have a wife and three kids, and they need to know I’m a human being, and this calls for creating memories for the future.”
Thus, once his Airmen are able to make sure they themselves are ready to go, Jackson reiterates to them how important the mission is, but things can distract from completing it.
“Every organization in the Air Force is mission-driven,” Jackson concluded. “But, any time your mind is not focused on the mission, bad things can arise. It’s my job to help move boulders out of their way, be there for them when they need it most and I take pride in knowing I have the best job in the Air Force.”