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Leading by example

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Divine Cox
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
After a rocky and bumpy start to adulthood, Capt. Jason Henry, 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron operations officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, engaged himself with his local services recruiters and ultimately chose to serve in the Unites States Air Force.

For Henry, joining the armed forces directly after high school was not part of the plan.

"Prior to coming into the Air Force, I went to Penn State University," said Henry. "I grew up a fan of their football program and Joe Paterno."

Henry said he had the realization of finally deciding to join the Air Force after he dropped out of Penn State University because his grades were less than stellar and he had accumulated too much debt from student loans.

"I didn't want to have to drop out," said Henry. "I knew I wanted to make something of myself one day, so I decided to explore other opportunities to better myself."

Henry enlisted in the Air Force in 1995 as a weapons troop, then later crosstrained to be a radio operator on the E-3 Sentry (airborne warning and control system) before beginning his commissioning process.

Henry loved the Air Force and knew that he wanted to do more than just serve. He wanted to lead Airmen and lead by example.

"Back at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in 2000, I met then-Capt. Matthew Smith--now Col. Smith--who changed my life forever," said Henry. "He motivated me both personally and professionally and is the apex of what it means to be a servant leader.  He is the officer and man I've wanted to emulate since the first day I met him and has been a mentor to me all these years and continues to do so to this day."

While working his way through the enlisted ranks, Henry took the Officer Training School route after he finished his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University in 2001.

But it wasn't a smooth transition from technical sergeant to second lieutenant for Henry.

"I was turned down for OTS twice," said Henry. "Then I had a board cancelled. I honestly thought about giving up my pursuit of a commission, as I thought to myself 'Maybe I am supposed to be a chief?'"

But Henry did not give up and remained resilient. On July 6, 2006, Henry was sworn in as a commissioned officer and pinned on second lieutenant.

"Transitioning from the rank of technical sergeant to second lieutenant was the best day of my career," said Henry. "My mother, who has since passed, was there to witness the event and to know how proud of me she was at that very moment in time when she, my father and wife, pinned on those gold bars. No rank or job I will attain in or after the service will ever compare to it."

Henry said he does not take being a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force for granted.

"I take every opportunity I have to lead and mentor my Airmen," said Henry. "I think it is critical to lead young Airmen, because we have to invest and grow our replacements for the future. At the end of the day the question we have to ask ourselves is 'What do we want our legacy to be?'"

All the all hard work and leadership that Henry has displayed throughout the 627th LRS hasn't gone unnoticed, as he was recognized as the Team McChord 2015 Company Grade Officer of the Year.

"It was truly humbling when I was announced as the CGO of the year," said Henry. "During that moment, I reflected back on all the successes of our Airmen and civilians in the 627th LRS over the last year. I also reflected on my opportunity to represent our service Air Force in Baghdad, Iraq, with the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kansas, supporting our service members on the ground, to include the Iraqis. I also thought of my wife, Robyne, and our daughters, Emerie and Ellasyn, for the sacrifices they have made on my behalf to serve in the Air Force."

Henry has been a member of Team McChord for just under two years and is scheduled for a permanent change of station in July.

Henry's career has always been about leading by example, and he wants to share some advice to Airmen before he departs.

"The best advice I've been given and share with our Airmen and civilians is: the first person that you must lead is yourself," said Henry. "As you continue to live it [leadership], and are given opportunities, you also increase your abilities by those leadership experiences--both the successes and failures."

There is a quote I recently read that sums up great leadership, in my opinion: "Leadership is character and confidence, not one or the other." -- Author unknown.