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1st. Lt. Melissa Jumper
1st. Lt. Melissa Jumper
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U.S. Air Force: A family business

Posted 4/26/2012   Updated 4/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Debi Smith
82nd Training Wing Public Affairs

4/26/2012 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A passion for aviation and deep commitment to the Air Force has created a family tradition for the Jumper name. Three generations answered the call from World War II to current day with Air Force blue spanning two centuries.

The 366th Training Squadron Electrical Flight commander, 1st Lt. Melissa Jumper, shared her family's historical ties and impressive impact on the United States Air Force at the annual North Texas Conference for Women April 18 in Wichita Falls, Texas. She offered the personal perspective from a child's eyes growing up military to a woman leader's tips for success in the business world.

The lieutenant's Air Force family roots reach back to her grandfather who enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941. 1st Lt. Jimmy Jumper later received a commission and graduated from the aviation cadet program at Moore Field, Texas in 1944. After the war, he transitioned from the Air Corps to the newly formed Air Force in 1947. Serving through the officer ranks for the next several decades, her grandfather rose to the rank of major general before retiring in 1974.

Her father also heard the military's call, commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1966 and went on to serve two tours in Vietnam as a C-7 and F-4 pilot. He retired in 2005 after serving almost 40 years.

Additionally, both of her uncles chose the Air Force, one as a pilot and the other as a vitreoretinal surgeon.

This Jumper generation finds all three sisters setting the standard in the Air Force. Catherine and Janet both graduated from the University of Virginia and commissioned as an aircraft maintenance officer and a medical corps nurse, respectively. Serving distinctive periods of active duty, both went on to join the reserves.

Sheppard's Melissa Jumper applied for an ROTC scholarship in mechanical engineering and graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008. She now leads 60 joint-service military and civilian instructors overseeing the training of three civil engineer specialties in base infrastructure and emergency response capabilities including emergency readiness, explosive ordnance disposal and firefighting.

She is in her fourth year of military service and is married to a pilot in the 80th Flying Training Wing. During their three-year marriage, both have deployed. While apart, she maximizes her time and energy training for marathons and working toward a Master of Science degree in Technology with a focus on facility management.

Jumper looks back on her childhood as a testament to her own future and talking about what she calls her "family business" elicits a deep response. Growing up military brought both good and difficult challenges. She moved nine times as a child and attended seven schools, including three high schools.

"There were a lot of things that I got to do at a very young age that many people may never experience in a lifetime. I enjoyed moving and traveling and I appreciated all the experiences I gained because of my dad's job," she said.

Her father took office as the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and held his first staff meeting on the nation-changing day Sept.11, 2001 when she was 15.

"My father had always instilled a sense of military pride in us as a family, a feeling that we were part of something bigger than ourselves," Jumper said.

"That feeling, which I realized made me feel at home no matter where I was physically located, is what ultimately drove me to join the Air Force. Everything I do is a reflection on my family and the 100-plus years of service that they have willingly provided to their country."

The following are points Jumper offered during her speech at the conference as "nuggets of wisdom" she gained from her family and other strong female leaders in the military and civilian world:

- Take the time to recognize your people. The Air Force officer corps only makes up 20 percent of those wearing the uniform. It's incredibly important to recognize the 80 percent (enlisted personnel) that do the heavy-lifting every day of taking us to success or total failure.

- As a leader, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and seek advice from those who have done the job for years and can provide information that is not your area of expertise.

- Always be above reproach and set the example.

- Manage people's expectations by setting reasonable, clearly defined and communicated expectations and follow through to see if they were done.

- Women in the workplace who are assertive, demanding and have high expectations usually face the dreaded b-word. Use the term "graceful intensity" to describe a strong female leader in a positive and feminine way so she's known as a leader with class, dignity and grace but with the same intensity as a man with the same expectations.

- At work and social functions, dress the way you want to be treated for the respect of your rank and position.

- Be personal. Taking things personally is a reflection of what makes you passionate, and if it's your business, there is nothing wrong with that.

- Be yourself and don't act the way you think a leader should act, but rather develop your natural leadership skills to execute your mission and lead in a way that makes you comfortable.

- "Mission First, People Always" is a popular military phrase that rings true for anyone. Do your job well, be a strong leader, take care of your people and balance your own health, family and needs.

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