"Elizabeth’s father asked me to spread one message, do not let the cowards win. Do not let her die in vain. I ask all our leadership to get this word out to our forces." - CMSGT Baliko
Airman First Class Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson, originally from Riveria Beach, Florida, was killed on September 28th while providing security for a convoy near Camp Bucca, Iraq. She was twenty-one years old. Here is a bit about her from Captain Kevin Tuttle who was the laison to the family during the funeral last week in Ft. Lauderdale:
...David Jacobson, Airman Jacobson’s father, told us stories about Elizabeth. He spoke of her love of the Air Force and her security forces duties; her desire to be a chief master sergeant someday; and the way she always volunteered to do the jobs no one else wanted. The fateful convoy mission was one such duty she had tried to get for a long time, rather than be in the guard tower where it was relatively safe.
The part that was so surprising to me was the outpouring of support her family bestowed on the military members, for the jobs we all have to do to protect this nation. There were no sentiments of bitterness or anger toward the military...
Her official Air Force photo is below (click on the thumbnails for larger versions):
But here's a photo that might be a better one to remember her by:
Retired Master Sergeant Theresa O. sends this great tribute to A1C Elizabeth Jacobson:
GOODFELLOW REMEMBERS A FALLEN HERO
CMSGT RICH BALIKO
17TH SECURITY FORCES SQUADRON SUPERINTENDENT
Wednesday, 28 September 2005, on a dusty road just north of the Kuwait-Iraq border, Airman First class Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson was providing security for a supply convoy as a gun truck crew served weapons operator. The convoy was on a routine supply mission and traveling to Camp Bucca, Iraq. Somewhere along that road, terrorists set off an improvised explosive device as the vehicle Airman Jacobson was riding in passed. A tremendous explosion erupted; Airman Jacobson and the US Army driver in the vehicle were instantaneously killed. The US Army person in the gunner’s turret was critically wounded, and no further information is available at this time on his condition. Airman Jacobson’s sacrifice for her country made her the first security forces member to die in combat since 20 May 1975, when 23 defenders were lost in a helicopter crash in Thailand supporting combat operations to recapture the USS Mayaquez.
Airman Jacobson arrived at Goodfellow AFB on 9 December 2003. From the very first day in the unit, people came to know her commented on her never ending smile and positive attitude. I would later find out that her favorite quote was “I also believe in love and here is my quote. We’re on this Earth for a little while, so live life to the fullest and carry a smile.” Elizabeth touched many lives in the short 21 years she was with us on this earth, and lived life to the fullest every day. She was a true role model and mentor for all people who serve in uniform. She was the picture of the Air Force core values, and the words “can’t”, “won’t”, or “impossible” did not exist to her. As with all security forces units, the 17th SFS is undermanned. With forty percent of our unit deployed fighting the global war on terrorism, we have been in and out of extended (12 hours) shifts since my arrival in July 2004. She found herself on the gate more than she would really admit she wanted to be. First working on the midnight shift, then transferring to days, I would see her a lot as I entered and left the installation. She was always smiling, happy and full of energy, no matter what the time of day or night, no matter what the weather. Many people at Goodfellow have approached me over the last two weeks and offered their sincere sorrow for her passing. Elizabeth always found the good in everything, no matter what the circumstances.
In February 2005, the AEF Center sent a tasking order to AETC/SF asking for a 13-person squad for duty at Camp Bucca. AETC/SF tasked Goodfellow to provide this team and the senior leadership of the unit met to determine the best possible candidates in that AEF bucket to fulfill this mission. We did not have to look too hard for one. Elizabeth approached the unit leadership and stated it was her time. Elizabeth was very excited to be one of the thirteen and, as I entered the gate one day before the team left for pre-deployment training, stopped me and stated, “Thank you for your confidence in me, for putting me in for an SF annual award. I will not let you down. I will kick butt on this deployment, make senior airman below the zone, and one day sit in your office.” The senior noncommissioned officers of my unit met about two months before that to determine who we would recommend be nominated for SF annual awards. Elizabeth was the unanimous choice for the Julie Y. Cross Federal Women in Law Enforcement Award. Unfortunately, this award no longer a part of the SF annual award process. I have researched the criteria for the award and she will still be submitted through either civilian or DP channels.
In April, our unit underwent two weeks of annual ground combat skills training. Elizabeth, though not the biggest among the group, nor the strongest, was definitely the toughest. She soon started doing jobs and tasks that others did not want to do. She never quit and soon was recognized as an informal leader among her peers. In May, she went off with her team to Fort Lewis, Washington for pre-deployment training. She quickly was recognized by the cadre and leadership at Fort Lewis, assisted over 500 SF personnel with in- processing and equipment issue. During the ten days she returned from training and the time she left for Iraq, she ensured her younger sister, whom she was assisting in raising, was taken care of. A few hours before take off, she was at her best friend’s home, packing and sorting through last minute items of what to take to Iraq and what to leave behind. The entire time, smiling and joking as Elizabeth always did. In the parking lot at 2335 hours on 15 June, our unit formed a gauntlet for the team to pass through to say goodbye to everyone. I was the last person she hugged getting on the bus. With that perfect smile, she looked at me and said “Don’t worry, we’ll be back.” Before the bus left the parking lot on its way from San Angelo to San Antonio, where they would board a plane to fly to Iraq, she rolled down a window, looked out, and said to her closest friend, SrA Chris Bauer, “I love you brother!”
In Iraq, Elizabeth kept her positive attitude and playful mood. She lived life to the fullest and never shunned away from any task. She asked to be placed on convoy missions to carry her weight. A few hours before the incident that would take her life, she drove from Camp Bucca to Ali Al Saleem, Kuwait to see another four person team from Goodfellow. Among those warriors was her supervisor, SSgt Katrina Hunt. Sergeant Hunt had no idea Elizabeth was coming, and was very shocked when she was awakened to see her subordinate standing before her. The two talked for hours about their respective missions. Sergeant Hunt was very surprised at the maturity level of Airman Jacobson and the love she had for what she was doing. They talked about celebrating Airman Jacobson’s 22nd birthday when both of them returned home. They ended the conversation and hugged each other goodbye. Sergeant Hunt would not know this was the last time she would see her troop until the day Airman Jacobson’s body arrived at her location on her way home.
On 6 October, Goodfellow AFB said goodbye to Airman Jacobson with a very special memorial service. It featured the first 21-gun salute conducted in a memorial service in almost 20 years. Four of her closest friends read scriptures and shared “I remember Liz Jacobson because…” stories. On 9 October, in a beautiful cemetery just outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida; under a semi circle of flags, our warrior was laid to rest. The ceremony was presided over by Brig Gen Holmes, USAF Director of Security Forces. After the formal ceremony, the 11 members from the 17th SFS in attendance removed their shields and placed them at the foot of the coffin containing the remains of an angel. In a slow salute, we said goodbye. The badges were then presented to members of Elizabeth’s family. Contingents from many surrounding bases were in attendance, in addition to several local police agencies. Six people from Goodfellow flew to Florida on military airlift. From the start of the flight at 0600 to the end of the homeward journey, it was as if Elizabeth was guiding the plane from heaven.
In closing, I ask that all supervisors and leaders who read this article please remember this young lady. When your people complain about long duty hours, high operations tempo, never ending training and deployments; ask them to remember a warrior who loved her country over herself and her family and gave everything she had for its service. Many people have asked why did this happen? Why Elizabeth? Was there any training we could have given her to prevent this? Terrorists are cowards who cannot take on America in a fair fight. They have to plan their attacks to strike where they will not be seen and inflict a casualty or two. Never begin to second guess training or abilities. Elizabeth’s father asked me to spread one message, do not let the cowards win. Do not let her die in vain. I ask all our leadership to get this word out to our forces. Love life like Elizabeth did. She would not let any of life’s troubles stop her. After high school, she enlisted in the Air Force in the toughest career field. She completed her career development course well ahead of the timeline her supervisor set for her. Every day, she posted herself, on a gate or on patrol, with a purpose to serve her country the best she could. She never walked away from a problem, always tried her best, and smiled the entire time.
In closing, about twenty years ago, a doctor of religious studies asked a question that took him ten years to answer. If God is good and loving, why does he permit suffering and evil in the world? The answer, to bring about a greater good. Throughout history, all tragedy has been followed by goodness. This tragedy will be no different. Liz, you are in a better place now. God has arch angels appointed in heaven for special duties. One is Michael, commander of the heavenly armies and the saint for all first responders. Michael now has an assistant. For on the day when time gives way to eternity, and we pass from this earth, we will ascend into heaven. As we approach the great gates of heaven, god’s special post one will be manned by an angel with a smile that can melt a strangers heart and light the darkest corners of the night. Standing tall, this angel will be wearing a beret, spit shined boots, and a crisp uniform. She will be a hero among heroes, and have a special place in the place where only heroes go. On that day, Liz will look at us and say, “Welcome home.” May God continue to bless this great career field and the many heroes like Elizabeth N. Jacobson. May he also continue to bless the Air Force and the United States of America!
Godspeed, Airman Jacobson, Godspeed...