JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --
This First Sergeant needs your help.
Abraham Lincoln was shaking hands all day at a New Year's reception and his hand was unsteady when he grasped the pen. He sat down and said, "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.'” Then he slowly and firmly wrote "Abraham Lincoln," looked up, smiled, and said, "That will do." On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the final Emancipation Proclamation.
I am not making a comparison to Abraham Lincoln; however, I’m sharing my feelings and as I write this letter, my hands are shaking, my heart aches, and I feel the weight of generations before me riding on my shoulders.
I have been part of the Warhawk Family for eight years as a Master Military Training Instructor and now as a First Sergeant. The 37th Training Wing is near and dear to my heart as it transformed a kid growing up in the streets of Brooklyn, New York into leading our future leaders as a First Sergeant.
I was born in the Bahamas and my parents were from Guyana (the only English-speaking country in South America which borders Brazil and Venezuela). However, prior to enlisting into the Air Force, I wanted to be a police officer with the New York Police Department. I grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Do or Die Bed-Stuy) and believe it or not I had role models in the NYPD. Every summer they ran a basketball league named the Police Athletic League and many officers would hang around and vibe with us inner city kids. I wanted to do the same for my community when I grew up. Unfortunately, at the time I was not a US citizen; therefore, that dream was cut short.
I am angry that George Floyd died in police custody as the country witnessed four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota apprehend and later watched as George cried out for his mother until his last breath.
I am tired of smiling to prove I’m not a threat when I’m not in uniform. I am tired of teaching my sons Erick, Devin and Quentin rules of engagement as if they are preparing for battle. “Don’t make any sudden movements. Keep your hands at 10 and 2. Don’t reach for anything if you are pulled over. Ask permission to move before moving. Use yes sir and no sir…etc.” I’m tired of the hidden racism, that if I didn’t wear the uniform, I’d be subject to like other black citizens. My oldest son just graduated the University of Texas in San Antonio with an Engineering degree along with a 3.8 GPA. You think racism gives a damn about that?
So why do I need your help? I need us to be honest, transparent and most importantly listen. The biggest fail I see as a First Sergeant are supervisors not knowing their Airmen. Get comfortable with having the difficult conversations about an Airman’s background, we owe that to them and their families. As a team we can solve this problem together, however, it is not going to happen overnight; therefore, I suggest we take a moment to reflect on how we become better at understanding. Let us heal from this moment of unrest and look at that person in the mirror and conduct a self-assessment. What can I do to be a better wingman? How can I promote unity and strength within my unit? If I am a leader what type of environment can I create?
This is a two-way street. We all have a role in this. It took years of disinformation, oppression and blatant racism on both sides that got us here today. Most Airmen will never forget their MTI. I will never forget my first supervisor, Staff Sergeant Gina Faulds from North Dakota. She was a red headed white woman that never saw a black person in her life and loved Martina McBride. I was a black man from Brooklyn and was all about the Wu-Tang Clan. We got to know each other and spoke about our struggles growing up. Next thing we know, I am jamming to Reba McEntire and she is head nodding to The Notorious BIG.
We need more of this in our Air Force.
Let’s have a discussion. I am here to just listen, the First Sergeant.
With love and respect,
SMSgt W. Jack
Learn more about Jack’s career here.