DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Staff Sgts. Jacob Jones, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations unit deployment manager and Alyssa Day, AFMAO public affairs specialist, were recently selected for career advancement opportunities.
Jones was recognized under the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program and notified Dec. 23 of his promotion to the rank of technical sergeant, effective Dec. 10, 2021.
The staff sergeant said his reaction to the news was shock, not only because leadership came to his house, but because he’s not familiar with anyone in the services career field promoted under the program.
“The entire chain of command showed up on my doorstep to congratulate and present the stripe to me,” Jones said. “It was amazing.”
Each year, the STEP program promotes a limited number of individuals to staff or technical sergeant.
“You just never expect to be selected, because you see so many great Airmen around you and have never heard of anyone in your career field being STEP promoted,” he said.
Master Sgt. Theron Hann, AFMAO Readiness and Plans superintendent, said Jones is a committed Airman who has what it takes to thrive as a technical sergeant.
“He possesses the maturity, empathy, compassion, courage, communication skills and flexibility,” said Hann. “Jones’ ability to establish immediate connections with Airmen as a supervisor, leader and mentor is enviable. He is well respected amongst Airmen both up and down the chain.”
As the UDM for AFMAO, Jones is charged with AFMAO’s Unit Type Code posturing and is instrumental in filling enlisted and officer taskings in support of the mortuary mission. He is also critical in administering the readiness and staff accountability programs to ensure AFMAO personnel are ready to respond to search and recovery and mass fatalities at a moment’s notice.
“I can’t think of a more deserving individual,” said Hann. “He is the epitome of the Air Force NCO.”
Jones enlisted in the Air Force in 2013 and promoted to staff sergeant in 2018. He tested twice for technical sergeant, but missed it last year by less than one point. Missing it by such a narrow margin was heartbreaking, he said. His advice though is not to get discouraged. Keep trying, he said, and continue providing well-rounded and concrete products in your work center.
“Look for ways to better yourself that you actually want to do,” Jones stressed. “I’ve found it easier to continue bettering myself so long as what I am pursuing, makes me happy. Vocalize your goals within your work center, especially with your supervisor and leadership. If the goal is to get STEP promoted, find ways to make it possible, and relentlessly pursue them.”
Taking his own advice, in addition to juggling work, family life and sports, Jones is working on a bachelor’s degree in sports science and has a goal of pursuing a rated officer commission.
Commissioning is a goal Jones and Day share. She grew up in a military family, many of which were officers. She said she has a desire to serve, but wanted to follow in her father’s enlisted footsteps first. She did so by enlisting in the Air Force as soon as she finished high school.
“The opportunity to commission in the Air Force would allow me to grow as a leader in a different capacity,” said Day. “This is a goal I’ve had even before I enlisted in the Air Force.”
Throughout her career, Day said she has taken care of those she knows and works with, and believes she can do so in a greater capacity than she could as a peer. She now has the opportunity, following her selection for the Fiscal Year 2022 Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program-Active Duty Scholarship.
The SLECP-A program allows designated Air and Space Force senior leaders to directly select exceptionally performing, highly talented enlisted Airmen for commissioning through Officer Training School. Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, selected Day for this opportunity.
When the opportunity to apply came down, Day didn’t hesitate to apply since a commission has been a goal of hers for some time. She submitted her package, interviewed with Kelly and then waited patiently, even suspecting she wasn’t selected, until Christmas morning when leadership notified her of her selection for the SLECP-A program.
“This is a huge opportunity and a testament to Sergeant Day,” said Col. Chip Hollinger, AFMAO commander.
Day initially started taking communication and media classes toward a degree in mass communications but changed direction and is now working toward a bachelor of science degree in software engineering. She has taken several college courses with the Air Force tuition assistance program, but not all of those credits transfer for her new degree plan.
In 2019, she enrolled in Arizona State University and completed 10 courses while maintaining a 3.92 grade point average.
“I’ll have three years to get my degree, so I’m on a clear path to graduate spring 2025 as a full-time college student,” said Day. “There will be some semesters when I have to take 15-16 credits and take two classes every summer, but I’m prepared for that.”
She said she knows there will be challenges and uncertainty ahead as she makes this transition to a student, but knows the important thing is keeping the end goal in mind.
“First and foremost, I need to learn what it means to be an officer,” Day said. “I don’t want to start off with a plan. I would rather go in with an open mind and be the change that is needed.
“One of my priorities that will never change is to take care of those around me, whether I’m appointed under or over them,” said Day. “I have goals to become a commander one day, but that’s not possible without personal growth and change between who I am now and who I will be in 15 years. My most trusted leadership were those that I knew genuinely cared for my peers and my well-being. I plan to pass that on in my leadership style.”
The sergeants share an appreciation for being recognized for these opportunities and having good leadership. Jones said none of this would have been possible without the incredible support he’s received in his work center.
“Those amazingly, selfless individuals inspire me to be half as great as they are every day.” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for each and every one of them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Jones will continue serving in his readiness position at AFMAO while working toward his degree and ultimately a commission. Day is scheduled to move to Arizona this summer to prepare for the fall semester.