Texas Air National Guard member continues military ambassador tradition
Story by: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Posted: April 22, 2016
For the second year in a row, a member of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, is representing the U.S. Air Force in an official capacity at local area events.
Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW, and Tech. Sgt. Steven Nowicki, a military working dog instructor from the 341st Training Squadron, are this year's Air Force military ambassadors, selected out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
Every year, military ambassadors from each service branch are chosen in pairs, one male and one female, to act as appointed representatives and engage with the community at various events throughout the year.
Crow competed for the special designation against Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve members from all three surrounding JBSA installations: Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland.
"It's an amazing opportunity to represent the Total Force, both Air National Guard and active duty, going out and putting on one team, one fight," she said.
Before being chosen for the position, top-qualifying candidates go before a selection board. Crow's board was comprised of active duty chiefs and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors. Both of last year's ambassadors, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall and Master Sgt. Juan Flores, are members of the 149th FW. But for Crow, that commonality didn't make the atmosphere any less intimidating.
"It was actually kind of more nerve-wracking with both of them on the board because they knew me - actually Juan didn't know me at that point," she said remembering the details of the panel. "They asked us questions in regards to Fiesta and what our involvement in the San Antonio community was."
Flores, one of last year's Air Force ambassadors, said the ambassador applicants get asked a lot of Fiesta San Antonio questions because the bulk of events that the ambassadors attend involve the annual event.
Every year, the city of San Antonio hosts Fiesta, which runs for ten days in April. This year marks its 125th anniversary.
Flores said that Crow had a lot of the characteristics the panel looks for when choosing its ambassadors.
"You want someone who has charisma," he said. "You don't want someone who is strictly all military, who doesn't show much emotion. You want someone who has good military bearing, yes, but you also want someone who is personable."
It took about a week for Crow to hear back about the board's decision. The then-wing executive, Maj. Cindy Storoy, who Crow credits as the driving force behind her decision to apply, called to congratulate her on being selected as an Air Force ambassador.
"I was excited," Crow said looking back on that moment. "I'm pretty sure there was some dancing around the living room. I don't think I realized just how extensive and how great of an opportunity this is to represent the Air Force."
Now having attended several events and gaining a little more insight into what the military ambassador program is all about, Crow said she better understands its significance.
"To be a member of the 149th [FW] that continues the tradition and to be a part of the ambassador program on this big of a stage feels amazing," she said.
In the spirit of continuing that tradition, Hall, last year's female Air Force ambassador, passed down her Air Force service cap for Crow to wear during this year's many outside events. "She said, 'you need this hat because the sun is going to be in your eyes a lot, so here's my hat. Does it fit?' And it fit perfectly, so we're already talking about next year, hopefully passing that hat onto somebody else that wins the ambassador program."
Hall said she was just glad it fit because she liked the idea of another Gunfighter continuing the tradition of the ambassador program, which she views as a "bond between the San Antonio community and the entire military community."
Like her military ambassadors before her have said, Crow remarked that one of the program's aspects she finds most rewarding is the interaction she gets with her fellow ambassadors from the other services.
"You don't really know that these other branches have a presence on these bases until you get to know these guys and they're like, 'yeah, we do this,' and I'm thinking I didn't know that was a mission here, so it's been eye opening to say the least," she said.
The learning experience seems to go both ways.
"I was familiar with the Guard because I had worked with them on deployments before, but I wasn't as familiar with the 149th FW, said Nowicki, who is Crow's Air Force ambassador male counterpart. "I didn't know it was a Guard unit. [Crow] has taught me a lot about its different roles and functions. I always joke that she's the brains and I'm the brawn in this operation. It really has been great getting to know her. I've just learned so much from her."
During the ambassador introductions, Crow states her job title and affiliation with the Air National Guard, which often generates interest from her military counterparts.
"They'll approach me afterwards and say, 'oh, you're Guard, that's awesome, Total Force. We're so happy to see the Guard representing this year.' It feels awesome to carry on the tradition," she said.
Having the responsibility of representing both her wing and her service could seem daunting, but Crow doesn't let it get to her.
"I'm just going to go out and have fun, and I'm going to be myself," she said. I'm going to do everything I can to represent not just the Air Force but the Air National Guard in a positive light. If I can just do that, then there shouldn't be any pressure."