We salute you!
Chief Master Sergeant Lawanda Jackson made history as the first Black woman to be promoted to chief in the 70+ year history of the Virginia Air National Guard (VaANG), the Air National Guard reports.
Jackson enrolled in the military in 1996, becoming the first member in her family to enlist in active duty with the United States Air Force. Almost a decade later, in 2005, she joined the VaANG to pursue her nursing career and continue her military service.
“Joining the Air Force was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. And then joining the Virginia Air National Guard was an even better decision because I get the best of both worlds – still serving while being a civilian and doing a job that I love,” Jackson told reporters.
Jackson has now become the first Black woman to be named Chief Master Sergeant, the VaANG’s highest achievable enlisted rank. She is a member of the 192nd Support Squadron Mobility Flight Chief. The squadron celebrated her achievement during the promotion ceremony on July 10.
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Dorothy May Tatem, the first Black woman to enlist in the VaANG in 1973, spoke at Jackson’s ceremony, saying, “It meant so much to me to see an African American female make chief master sergeant in the Virginia Air National Guard. It was something I didn’t want to miss. It’s part of my history. It’s part of the history of the Guard.”
Per federal law, no more than one percent of the USAF enlisted force can hold the rank of chief. Of the more than 1,800 chief master sergeants in the ANG, women make up nearly 12 percent, with Black chiefs making up just six percent. Jackson is the 173rd Airman to be promoted to chief, paving the way for Black women looking to enlist in the Air Force.
Maj. Erica Legg, the 192nd SS director of operations, officiated the promotional ceremony, speaking of the significance of Jackson’s appointment.
“It’s women like these who decide to swim against the current and break the glass ceilings that allow for future generations of women and minorities’ opportunities in which we could never compete for,” Legg said.
Maj. Fallon Martin, 192nd SS commander, said she always knew Jackson would earn the rank of chief.
“Chief Jackson had been functioning at the chief level long before she ever pinned it on. Her focus has rightfully remained on the care of Airmen and people, even in her civilian capacity. For years, she has been a go-to senior leader than any squadron commander could lean on for wise counsel. She is exactly what you want in a chief,” Martin said.
Jackson said it was never her intention to become a chief or retire from the military. She just wanted to “see the world and make a difference.” Now, 25 years later, she’s reflecting on her service and what she’s learned as a Black woman in the Air Force, particularly the advice she would give to those coming behind her.
“Remember, you’re here because this is where you’re supposed to be. Be who you are, set your goals, and go after them. Do not let anything stop you. You will have challenges, but you can overcome them. You are worthy, and you can do it. I am an example of that,” she said.
Congratulations, CMSgt Jackson! Because of you, we can!
L to R. Retired Senior Master Sgt. Dorothy May Tatem and CMSgt Lawanda Jackson. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Bryan Myhr