Jessica Schwind wanted to travel, see the world and explore her opportunities. She felt that wasn’t going to happen in Roanoke—her peers were working at K-Mart and fast food places. She knew she could and should do better. Her ticket was to join the Air Force.
With a GED, the Air Force would take Jessica more quickly than other branches of the armed services, and it was also the branch that her father served in. So, the choice was easy to make.
A decade later, Jessica has traveled the world, provided security for dignitaries and became a Phoenix Raven—a course, she explained, that few women get through. According to the Air Force, the Ravens’ course, “qualifies selected Security Forces personnel to perform as members of a force protection team assigned to deploy with Department of Defense aircraft to austere environments. Students are trained to perform as teams to detect, deter and counter threats to personnel and aircraft at deployed locations by performing close-in aircraft security and advising aircrew on force protection measures. In addition, the course prepares students to perform anti-hijacking duties on select missions.”
Jessica was the only woman in her Ravens group of 20, but she persevered because of her attitude.
“I don’t fail at anything, ever,” she said about the determination that got her through basic training and beyond. The program challenged her both physically and mentally.
She took advantage of the opportunities the military offered her to become a leader.
“I can keep my bearing in really bad situations,” she said. The places where she was deployed—Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the UAE, Africa, Spain, Germany, Libya, Pakistan, Panama, Ecuador and Japan, among others—gave her “a really good perspective on how great America is.”
According to Jessica, her experience in the military “straightened me out,” developing her drive to complete projects she starts.
She now has a life plan, including her education at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, where she is studying Physical Therapy and Healthcare Management. Earning an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree will take her five years, she estimates, and then she is determined to get back into the Guard and become an officer in a medical squadron.
“When you wear a uniform for so long, it becomes a part of who you are,” Jessica said. “I miss being more in charge of things and having a say in how things are run.”
Jessica now sees a future she had not considered ten years ago. She and her husband, whom she met in the Air Force, have a four year-old son. She is a competitive body builder with her sights set on becoming an NPC (National Physique Committee) judge, opening her own gym, practicing physical therapy and going to officer training school.
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