Kentucky Air Guardsman named ANG NCO of the Year
By Staff Sgt. John Hillier, Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs
/ Published September 16, 2016
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- A commitment to training and improving the people around him is what motivates Tech. Sgt. Nicholas P. Jewell, the Air National Guard's 2016 Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.
Jewell is a combat controller with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville. He was selected for this honor because of his professionalism both on the battlefield and in the training environment.
"Relationships are huge in this business," Jewell explained. "Trying to establish and maintain those relationships, and putting a face or name to the job is critical, because it's probably not the last time that you're going to work with that pilot or that person helping you make a mission happen. That way, they know who they're supporting."
"The most rewarding thing we do is a deployment," said Jewell. "We go out into a battlefield and integrate air power. It's not me alone, it's all of us who are bringing that to bear; I'm just the one who's communicating it. Everyone else is backing that big picture. There are so many people who come into play and it's very rewarding when you can reach back and thank people for helping you get out there and do your job."
When mission success depends on each team member doing his or her part, there is no shortage of experienced mentors to be found.
"I can't say that my mentor was any one person," said Jewell. "When I think 'mentor,' I think about the team dynamic - especially what we have in special tactics. I have brothers who would do anything for me, and I've been surrounded by men who have been out on the battlefield doing our job at the highest level. They helped make me who I am, and they're a huge contribution to my success. Special tactics is a family like that, and that's my mentorship. It's definitely not just one person."
The life of a special tactics Airman is a continuous cycle of training and deployment, and Jewell exemplifies a dedication to improving not only his own skills, but also those of the team around him. His experience in planning and leading pre-deployment training missions for his team proved invaluable when he was tasked with standing up a joint forward observer course for the Iraqi Army.
"My plan is to mentor the next team members who come along in all the ways that I've been mentored," said Jewell. "I show them my mistakes and my flaws, make sure that they learn from me and keep to our high standard. I feel like if you can take the Airmen below you and make them better than you, then you're doing your job. If you can do that, you've had success"
When asked about the Air Force core value most important in his job, Jewell does not hesitate to respond.
"My favorite is integrity," he said. "The reason behind that is sometimes it's hard to do the right thing when nobody's looking. Actually, it can be hard to do the right thing even when everyone is looking. But having integrity helps everyone else around you. You set an example, set the tone."
"And I've made my mistakes too, just like anybody," he said. "We say that integrity is to do the right thing even when nobody's watching, but really, your Airmen are watching you."
Jewell comes from a family of Kentucky Guard members. His father retired from the 123rd after serving over 20 years; an uncle also served in the unit and Jewell's brother serves with in the 123rd with him today.
"I learned about combat control and special tactics while I was in college and it looked like a great challenge," said Jewell. "Nothing in the job is repetitive, it's always something different. The Guard is kind of a family tradition for us. I knew there were good education benefits, but I wanted that adventure, too. I was looking for the next great thing I was going to do, and I got lucky and found something that I love."
A combat controller's job can take him anywhere in the world, and Jewell has trained and deployed with both U.S. and coalition forces across the globe.
"We go all over the states to train. Of course, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and all over Europe. My top trip was definitely Spain. Their food is amazing, but the people there - the lifestyle they lead, it's so different than us. It's low key, not the 'go, go, go' lifestyle like we have here. We saw the Rock of Gibraltar; that was very cool. The old forts were amazing, too."
But all the adventure in the world can't match being home.
"After we return from training or deployment I still get to come home, and that's pretty nice," he said. "Especially when you have kids - my family's close by and they help out a lot. That's the great thing about being in the Guard here is you can set roots. For a family, it's the best dynamic that you could have."
"I still travel, and I'll continue to see more and more of the world. I've been all over the world, all over the U.S., but Kentucky's home.