By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 29, 2015
PORTLAND AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ore. --
Its early and still dark on Oct. 4, as a handful of Airmen arrive to a dimly-lit warehouse here on base for their monthly Honor Guard training. As they wander in the door and shake off the early fall chill, they are greeted with hot coffee and a warm smile from Chief Master Sgt. Jean Allen, the 142nd Fighter Wing Force Support Squadron Superintendent.
This is her last official Unit Training Assembly duty weekend before she will retire later in the year, but today, true to form, she is 'checking-in' with each element of her squadron as the day begins.
Over a 32-year career in the Air National Guard, Allen has seen the Air Base physically change around her and over time, and along the way, her life has transpired around an occupation introduced to her by 'a challenge' from an older brother. It was Neil Short, a full-time technician in the avionics department here.
But over time Chief Allen became more than a Wingman sibling. Along her excursion through the Air Force she also became an Air Force spouse and later, an Air Force mom. Now as she formally retires, most of her Air Force family, both immediate and extended, gathered here Dec. 22, for a final goodbye.
In attendance were all five of her sons, including three active duty Airmen; Senior Master Sgt. Jason Anderson, 2nd Lt. Jake Anderson and twin brother Senior Airman Christopher Anderson. Allen's two step sons Jared and Logan Ellis live locally and were also in attendance.
Allen married Mike Ellis, then a Master Sgt. and recruiter for the 142nd Fighter Wing, in 2003. Ellis said that their blended family, much like Allen's extended Air National Guard family, only expanded her circle of care and attention.
"We've been really blessed with our blended family, and how the boys have become 'truly bothers' who care about each other," Ellis said. "I can attribute this to Jean; whether it is at home or work; she truly is invested with helping people grow as individuals."
As their sons have grown up and taken flight, Allen said her role as mom now involves being a mentor as well.
"With each son, they all share one common trait: a desire to serve and be part of something bigger," she said. "I spent a great deal of time on the phone with Jake, when he was making the decision to enroll in ROTC several years ago, mostly just listening."
As the only officer in the family, Jake Anderson said his older brother Jason has been the toughest on him about his 'Butter Bar' rank.
"I have only had my commission for 80 days so he's been giving me an earful," said Jake Anderson. "I told my mom when I applied for ROTC, [with laughter] that we don't need another 'Chief' in the family."
Though the three brothers give each other a hard time, Jake Anderson said he respects his older brother's advice and his years of experience.
"We all have been lucky to have the support of parents that have been through so much with their service to our nation," he said.
With his twin brother Senior Airman Christopher Anderson also serving on active duty, the three brothers attribute their Air Force career choice to their parents who did not push them, but demonstrated daily as excellent examples of military service.
"As brothers, we are naturally competitive but in a healthy way," Jake Anderson said. "It makes us just work harder and strive for larger goals."
Now that she is fully retired, Allen said that traveling to see her three sons is a high priority in the next year as well as being there for other family members who live in the immediate area. Trips to Pensacola, Florida and Georgia are already planned.
"I really feel like I can focus on my family for the first time, even though three of my boys are serving on active duty, and I want to support them and their growing families," Allen said.
Drawing on her career, Allen hopes all of her boys can experience some of the successes she encountered along her career path. One of those experiences Allen recalls was in 2011, when she attended the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.
"With active duty, Reserve and National Guard attending one course together, it allowed me to see how our total force concept works on every level," Allen said.
Returning form the course, Allen said that she quickly worked on building that team environment as the superintendent of the Force Support Squadron.
"In telling our Air National Guard story, I also encouraged our staff to be courageous and lean forward to get our message out," she explained. "Be courageous. The only way to change things for the better is to step up, with respect, and address deficient issues to improve the overall mission."
Driving out of the gate for the last time will not be easy for Allen. She said not being part of a UTA weekend will be the hardest part of retirement.
"We are truly one unit when all of us are here for a Drill weekend. This is where my passion for the job resonated, where I felt as a team we were always making something better for someone else," she said.
Ellis echoed this point as well. He said Allen thrived when it came to interacting with her Airmen and enhancing the squadron's two flights [Personnel and Services] into one distinct team.
"What makes me the proudest about my wife, as both a husband and retired Airman, is how she exemplifies the Air Force core value of 'Service Before Self'," he said.
And much like her role as an Air Force mom, Allen knew the time was right to let the next generation she has nurtured and encouraged, take the lead.
"She really cares for her people and she didn't want to hold anyone back," Ellis said. "That's why she knew it was time to leave and pass the torch to the next group of leaders."