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    An Airman's Journey Blending Military and VA Service

    An Airman's Journey Blending Military and VA Service

    Photo By Bailey Breving | 1st Lt. Nicole Jacocks rasies her right hand while reciting the Oath of Office...... read more read more



    Story by Bailey Breving 

    Veterans Health Administration

    In the corridors of VA, dedication to serving our nation's heroes is a daily commitment. Amidst the Black Women's History Month celebration observed in April, the story of one woman’s journey from enlisted ranks to commissioned officer symbolizes an indomitable spirit and steadfast devotion to duty.

    1st Lt. Nicole Jacocks, a nurse patient aligned care team educator at Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) and a recently commissioned nursing officer in the Air Force Reserve, stands as a beacon of inspiration for women and service members alike.

    Jacocks' journey began years ago when she enlisted in the active-duty Navy only months before the tragic events of 9/11 in 2001. Simply enlisting in the Navy posed significant hurdles for Jacocks that would foreshadow her resilience in the face of adversity throughout her military and civilian careers.

    “When I wanted to join, I knew I wanted to be in a medical role,” Jacocks recalled. “Instead, I had to join as a radioman with the promise of a Corpsman position when one became available.”

    Despite the initial setback, her recruiter made good on his promise, and she was quickly offered a medical position in the Navy when the job became available. Upon completion of her “A” school, she was stationed at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Reflecting on her time as a Corpsman, Jacocks recalled, "In the Navy, I experienced so much. For the first time, I witnessed patients returning home with amputations and injuries that I helped treat. I remember one soldier required a special helmet designed to reshape his skull after a blast injury.”

    Even after witnessing the harrowing realities of war, Jacocks felt more determined to serve her country and fellow service members.

    “The military has been the best thing that I could have ever done. It helped me solidify my passion for medicine and offered me a chance to hone in my skills,” she remarked. “If I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I would probably do it the same way."

    After five years of service, Jacocks felt called to put her family’s needs first and ended her enlistment in the Navy as an E-4, establishing herself as a Veteran.

    During her hiatus from the Navy, Jacocks remained mindful of her family’s rich military legacy, marked by influential trailblazers. Raised by parents who both served in the U.S. Air Force, Jacocks grew up surrounded by examples of duty, sacrifice, and courage. Her uncle, Fred Moore, a former U.S. Army soldier and the first African American tomb guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery, served as inspiration for Jacocks to keep pressing forward toward her dreams.

    ‘I love the military. God put a serving spirit in me, and I knew that I had to get back in,” Jacocks said.

    But once again, her journey forward would be marked with more obstacles, testing her resiliency and dedication.

    “I tried to go back into the Navy, but they kept losing my paperwork,” Jacocks chuckled. “I took that as a sign that I didn’t need to go back there. Instead, I joined the Air Force.”

    In 2009, Jacocks found herself raising her right hand once more, taking the oath of enlistment to join the Air Force Reserve as a medic, retaining her prior E-4 rank. As a reservist, Jacocks attends military drills once a month providing medical services to fellow service members to ensure the fighting force stays mission-ready. For the past 15 years, Jacocks has served with medical units at Robins Air Force Base, her current being the 413th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, rising through the ranks to become a senior leader.

    But her once-a-month uniformed service wasn’t enough to satisfy Jacocks’ need to serve.

    While receiving her health care at VA, Jacocks realized the Veteran community was another place she could offer her nursing skills. Nearly 10 years ago, she was hired as a nurse in VA TVHS’ inpatient unit to solidify her commitment to service.

    “When I began receiving my care at VA, I knew that there was a need for me somewhere here,” she explained. “I knew I could practice nursing anywhere, but it would mean something different being a Veteran serving other Veterans. As Veterans, they’ve laid the foreground for me to walk the path that I get to take now.”

    Fast forward to 2022, after almost 20 years of military service, Jacocks had an unexpected setback when pursuing her next promotion in rank.

    “When I was a master sergeant, I was selected to attend senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) academy. But while I was at that school, the available senior master sergeant slot I was offered was given to someone else,” Jacocks remembered. “I was upset, but I knew there were other possibilities to advance my career.”

    Undeterred by the setback of her promotion being pinned to another candidate, Jacocks seized an unexpected opportunity when a recruiter attended a conference call offering information on how airmen could commission as a nursing officer in the Air Force Reserve. Recognizing that becoming an officer would not only provide a path to advancement in rank but also allow her to leverage her extensive nursing expertise, Jacocks refused to let a temporary delay derail her aspirations for leadership.

    “One year and a couple of months later, here I am today,” Jacocks smiled, indicating the successful completion of her officer training.

    On Thursday, March 7, in the heart of the Alvin C. York VA Medical Center where Jacocks has worked for over a decade, Jacocks raised her right hand once more to swear in as a 1st Lt. in the Air Force Reserve. Surrounded by friends, family, and supportive VA co-workers, Jacocks received her first salute from Major Samantha Dobler, a fellow VA TVHS primary care provider and U.S. Army officer.

    “[Dobler] was my provider when I worked in the women’s health clinic,” Jacocks explained. “Working with another woman currently serving [in the military] and working at the VA is amazing. Even though she’s been in the military longer than me, she is still positive and enthusiastic, which inspires me. It reminds me that if she can do it, I can do it, too.”

    There is no argument that Jacocks has a one-of-a-kind story distinguished by prime examples of resiliency. Throughout her nearly 20 years of enlisted experience and over 10 years of VA service, she has weathered challenges with unwavering resolve. Grounded in her faith, Jacocks draws strength in her beliefs, guiding her through both triumphs and tribulations.

    “I don’t know how else to describe it other than this was what God had for my path,” Jacocks acknowledged. “When I was thinking of retiring, He showed me there is still work to be done. Even with the obstacles, if it had happened any other way, I would not be who I am today. He has been preparing me for this new opportunity, and I’m ready for it.”

    With her final statement, Jacocks not only embodies the spirit of Black Women’s History Month but also serves as an inspiration to all women and service members alike, reminding them of the power of perseverance, determination, and a steadfast commitment to duty.

    “Never let someone tell you what you can and cannot do, and always remember that delay does not mean denial.”



    Date Taken: 04.10.2024
    Date Posted: 04.10.2024 14:04
    Story ID: 468233
    Location: MURFREESBORO, TN, US
    Hometown: CHATTANOOGA, TN, US
    Hometown: CLARKSVILLE, TN, US
    Hometown: MURFREESBORO, TN, US
    Hometown: NASHVILLE, TN, US

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