By Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing
/ Published October 19, 2021
Airman 1st Class Jessica Briggs, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron recreational apprentice, works at the drop zone on Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait Oct. 14, 2021. Briggs is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, FL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks)
Airman 1st Class Jessica Briggs, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron recreational apprentice, balances her work life with fitness at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait Oct. 14, 2021. Briggs is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, FL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks)
Airman 1st Class Jessica Briggs, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron recreational apprentice, studies for her master's degree in business administration with a concentration in healthcare and information systems at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Oct. 14, 2021. Briggs is deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, FL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Brooks)
Imagine enduring a lot of ‘bologna’ working in the fast-food industry, to earning a B.S. in psychology… only to be sent back to the food industry - where you swore you’d never return.
You may feel humbled or undervalued. But would you feel unwavered, driven by your goals, and even more motivated to succeed than before?
This is part of the story of Airman 1st Class Jessica Briggs, and how her strong and tenacious character has led and influenced her career to be a member of the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron Services Flight.
Briggs grew up as a preacher’s kid, and oldest of three, in Blythewood, South Carolina. Her father was a truck driver and preacher, and her mother worked three jobs as a cashier, a newspaper deliverer, and at a senior living facility. Her parents provided a loving home, she said, but her father was always very hard on her, determined that she and her siblings would succeed.
“So, I was a preacher’s kid,” said Briggs, “and it was definitely harder for me growing up. I couldn't go out as much as other people and I felt like I was scrutinized more. I couldn't really do what I wanted to do and I was so ready to get out of the house. It was my first year of freedom, so I partied hard my freshman year and I actually got kicked out of college for dropping to a 1.6 GPA. I made a request for an appeal. They denied it and I couldn't go back until the next year.”
Following this response, Briggs became stoic in thought as though she were receiving that dreaded letter from her university all over again. And like that, she broke it with an audible growl of frustration.
After her sister just left home to attend a university during Briggs’ unenrolled year, her mom asked her a question that only a mother can ask.
‘Are you sure you want to go back to school? Should you just be going to a technical school?’
“I thought, ‘how embarrassing! My sister’s going to school and I squandered my freshman year,’ said Briggs.
“I told her, ‘no, I'm going to go back to this university and I'm going to get good grades. I'm going to make y’all proud and make myself proud.’ And that’s what I did.
“It took me an extra year, but I graduated. And this is why… this is why I am the way I am right now. This is why I play no games. This is why I work so hard. I had to go through that failure in life to prove to myself that I can do whatever I put my mind to. And that's honestly my story-- my resiliency story.”
Briggs has continued her path of resiliency beyond graduation. However, she was meeting brick wall after brick wall applying for jobs in the healthcare field. With the encouragement of her father that she would soon need a job, Briggs began considering following in the footsteps of two of her uncles by joining the United States Air Force.
Unfortunately, the recruiter told her that she wouldn’t be able to commission with her degree so she decided to enlist instead.
“She told me that I couldn't come in as an officer and that I would have to wait a year after being enlisted,” said Briggs. “So, I thought, ‘okay, this is fine. I can get some enlisted experience before I actually become an officer so I can be more well-rounded.’”
After graduating basic training and technical school, Briggs was appointed the job of services for the 96th Force Support Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, FL.
“At first, I really did not like working in services at the dining facility,” said Briggs. “I had to change my mindset because I honestly felt like I regressed back to high school doing fast food again. After so many rude encounters from years before, I wanted to be free of the fast-food culture.
“So here I was right back to food, but it actually humbled me because without services and the sustenance we provide, honestly... the military wouldn't be able to survive. So that's why I had to change my mindset about it, that we're just as valuable as officers or as anybody else working on the flight line.”
After Briggs adjusted her own outlook, she helped other Airmen to switch their frames of mind around as well. She said that many Airmen she encountered working there felt undervalued so she helped them to see that they are just as valuable as anyone else.
“Once my mindset started changing, I actually started liking the job better,” said Briggs. “I got through my CDCs in five months so I could start looking to commissioning programs. And lo and behold, I found the Medical Service Corps program and it was just what I wanted to do on the civilian side. It was literally perfect, but they didn't accept my psychology degree either. However, they did accept graduate degrees. So right now, I'm working on my master's in business administration with a concentration in healthcare and information systems.”
Briggs enrolled in a graduate program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University while currently on her first deployment to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. It’s an accelerated course and she will be halfway through it when her deployment’s over and she’ll graduate in only six months after that.
After enlisting less than two years ago, she is already being recognized for the exceptional work she puts into everything she does.
“Once I changed my mindset and worked hard with a positive attitude, I got nominated for some awards,” said Briggs. “I won Airman of the Quarter and Airman of the Wing. I also won the Hennessey Traveler Award and [Senior Airman Below the Zone] promoting me early to Senior Airman on November 14th.”
On top of all of this, Briggs is a co-director for professional development at Ali Al Salem, spreading her passion for education among the ranks.
While it may be undetermined where Briggs originally got her drive…it has been her inner joy and her goals of commissioning and working in the medical field that has kept her fire burning.
“I just have joy on the inside,” said Briggs. “It literally comes from God and from my family growing up. My family and I were so close. I really grew up with a good life. I grew up with good parents and a good foundation.”