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From K-loaders to cameras

(Left) Airman 1st Class Russ Jackson during his air transportation technical training. (Courtesy Photo)

(Right) Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs broadcaster, films on the flightline Feb. 5, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Jackson was among 200 Tyndall Airmen that traveled to Nellis for Red Flag 16-1, a joint-training, full-spectrum readiness exercise designed to provide the most realistic combat training possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Fox Echols III)

(Left) Airman 1st Class Russ Jackson during his air transportation technical training. (Courtesy Photo) (Right) Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson, 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs broadcaster, films on the flightline Feb. 5, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Jackson was among 200 Tyndall Airmen that traveled to Nellis for Red Flag 16-1, a joint-training, full-spectrum readiness exercise designed to provide the most realistic combat training possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alex Fox Echols III)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Three years ago, the 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Unsung Hero was working as an air transportation Airman at McChord Field, Washington.

Now, Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson makes video products that tell Team Tyndall’s story and co-anchors a weekly segment called the Tyndall Report on local news stations. But it was at McChord where he first got the opportunity to do what he has wanted since college.

“A job opened at McChord for someone to augment the base public affairs office,” Jackson said. “I applied for it, interviewed for it and got the job. Three days later, I was on the field during the Seattle Seahawks National Football Conference championship game holding the flag and taking photos. And I was hooked.”

Jackson was only an augmentee in the shop and had not been trained, so his supervisor started him off slow. But once he saw Jackson’s potential and storytelling abilities, the training wheels were off. He was working just as any other photojournalist.

“But it was only a yearlong gig,” Jackson said. “When I reached the end, and it was time to go back to my old job, I didn’t want to. I had fallen in love with public affairs. I was actually doing what my college professors told me I could never do – get paid to write.”

At that moment, he decided to do whatever it took to get his dream job. He filed for retraining into public affairs, but there were no photojournalist slots available. Jackson then opted to become a broadcaster.

Through a lot of work and determination, Jackson’s retraining request was approved and three months later, he received orders to Tyndall AFB. On May 13, he hit his eighth year of enlistment. Now, he is better able to experience and appreciate the Air Force in the career he fought hard to get into.

“As a ‘port dawg,’ I was just focused on driving a K-loader and moving cargo. It was very operational,” Jackson said. “In public affairs, I get to see the air transportation workers do their work, the maintainers refueling jets, and services keeping the units fed. I get to see a little bit of everything. I love seeing the big picture of the Air Force mission.”  

Herman Bell, 325th FW Public Affairs chief, selected Jackson as the Public Affairs Unsung Hero.

“To me, he is an Air Force success story,” Bell said. “Jackson has proven himself in a very short amount of time. He is very motivated, well rounded and wants to be the best he can be. He shows that every day.”

Jackson and his wife, Sarah, have been at Tyndall for almost a year now. They have two children: Cameron, two, and Brianna, two months. He credits his success in the Air Force to his “Pops,” Lou Berdoll.

“My biggest influence is my Pops,” Jackson said. “He was a B-52 Stratofortress pilot and was awarded two Air Force Crosses during Operation Linebacker II in Vietnam. He was an unbelievable pilot, an even better Airman, and is an amazing grandfather to my kids. No one has been more supportive of my career in the Air Force than him.”

Jackson had some words of wisdom to those who are getting jaded in their current career field and are thinking about retraining.

“Find something you’re passionate about,” Jackson said. “The military seems to have something for everyone, you just have to find it. I was lucky enough to find an opportunity to do what I wanted through storytelling with public affairs.”