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Seasoned Airman, young 'AF cop' early female casualties of war on terror

Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero and Airman 1st Class Jacobson

Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero and Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson. Shero was the first Air Force female to die during Operation Enduring Freedom and Jacobson was the first female killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Graphic by Sylvia Saab)

Staff Sgt. Anissa A. Shero was one of three Americans killed when an MC-130H crashed shortly after takeoff south of Gardez, Afghanistan June 12, 2002. Shero loved to fly and at the time of her death was one of only nine women loadmasters in the Air Force Special Operations Command. (Courtesy photo)

Staff Sgt. Anissa A. Shero was one of three Americans killed when an MC-130H crashed shortly after takeoff south of Gardez, Afghanistan June 12, 2002. Shero loved to fly and at the time of her death was one of only nine women loadmasters in the Air Force Special Operations Command. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, 21, was providing convoy security Sept. 28 near Camp Bucca, Iraq, when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, 21, was providing convoy security Sept. 28 near Camp Bucca, Iraq, when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson was killed while providing convoy security Sept. 28 near Camp Bucca, Iraq, when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson was killed while providing convoy security Sept. 28 near Camp Bucca, Iraq, when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an improvised explosive device. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This display was built by members of the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron for a remembrance ceremony to honor veterans, including Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, who was killed while on a convoy near Camp Bucca, Iraq.  Her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 28, 2005. She was the first female Airman killed in the line of duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Jeff Clark)

A display built by members of the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron honors Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, who was killed while on a convoy near Camp Bucca, Iraq. Her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device on Sept. 28, 2005. She was the first female Airman killed in the line of duty supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Jeff Clark)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A wreath is laid in front of Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson’s Memorial to commemorate her sacrifice Sept. 28, 2012. This year marks the seventh anniversary of her death. Jacobson was the first security forces member as well as the first Air Force female to be killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 by a roadside bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michael Smith)

A wreath is laid in front of Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson’s memorial at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, to commemorate her sacrifice Sept. 28, 2012. This year marks the seventh anniversary of her death. Jacobson was the first security forces member as well as the first Air Force female to be killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Michael Smith)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson (middle), smiles with two of her fellow Airmen, during her deployment to Iraq in 2005. Jacobson was killed on Sept. 28, 2008, when a roadside bomb detonated near her vehicle on a convoy delivering supplied to Camp Bucca, Iraq. Jacobson was a security forces member with the 17th Security Forces Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson (middle), smiles with two of her fellow Airmen, during her deployment to Iraq in 2005. Jacobson was killed on Sept. 28, 2008, when a roadside bomb detonated near her vehicle on a convoy delivering supplies to Camp Bucca, Iraq. Jacobson was a security forces member with the 17th Security Forces Squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. (Courtesy photo)

Fort George G. Meade, Md. (AFNS) -- A seasoned loadmaster assigned to special operations and a young security forces Airman, barely 21-years-of-age, have the distinction as the first female Airmen to die during the Global War on Terror in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom respectively.

Staff Sgt. Anissa Shero was deployed during the earliest stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She was serving as an MC-130H Combat Talon II loadmaster when her plane crashed shortly after take-off, on June 12, 2002. She was assigned to the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The 31-year-old West Virginia native was a 10-year Air Force veteran who had been awarded the Air Medal in 1996 and the Air Force Commendation Medal, along with two Air Force Achievement Medals during 2001. She had married Staff Sgt. Nathan Shero, a fellow air commando, on Sept. 1, 2001.

Anissa Shuttleworth Shero was born Oct. 5, 1970 in Grafton, WVa., the daughter of Clyde Shuttleworth and the late Tammy Moats. She was born into a military family, with grandfather James Shuttleworth, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and her father, who lost both legs during action in Vietnam.

Shero graduated from Grafton High School in 1988, and worked for a local radio station while attending Fairmont State College. She enlisted in the Air Force in 1992.

Slightly more than three years after the tragic death of Shero, on Sept. 28, 2005, a young security forces Airman became the first Air Force female to die supporting the war in Iraq.

That day, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth N. Jacobson, a member of the 17th Security Forces Squadon at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and her Army driver, lost their lives instantly when a roadside bomb detonated near their vehicle.

Her death sent a shockwave through the service. Jacobson was only 21 years old, the security forces first member to die in combat operations since 1975, and the first female Airman to die during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Before the fateful mission, Jacobson volunteered to accompany a convoy on its routine mission, delivering supplies to a nearby camp. Instead of staying behind and securing her base from the relative security of a guard tower, she wanted to "pull her weight," and make it known that she was part of the team. So only three months after arriving, she was assigned the more dangerous duty 'outside the wire.'

Even the deployment to Iraq was assigned to the young Airman because she volunteered to be part of a team of 13 Airman to deploy from Goodfellow AFB, telling her unit leaders that it was "her time" to deploy.

Before joining the Air Force, the Riviera Beach, Fla., native attended high school while living with her grandparents. She then decided to live with her mother in Madera, Calif., only to return to Florida in search of work.

After the 9/11 attacks, she made the decision that changed her life. In 2003, she joined the Air Force, launching her on a promising career in military law enforcement in the Air Force security forces. After completing security forces technical school, she was assigned to the 17th Security Forces Squadron, where she performed duties as an installation entry controller and patrolman.

Jacobson envisioned herself rising to the rank of chief master sergeant, but also dreamed of having a family, with two sons, after returning to live in sunny Florida.

"Elizabeth liked being a troop and was so proud," said Elizabeth's father in a conversation with then-Capt. Kevin Tuttle, who was the military liaison to the Jacobson family. "She made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the cause of freedom."

Her heroic and selfless dedication to her service were soon recognized formally and Jacobson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals for her meritorious service while engaged with opposing armed forces.

A memorial with a plaque featuring Jacobson's likeness etched on it, reminds visitors and Airmen at Goodfellow AFB of their fallen comrade's sacrifice every time they enter through the same gate where Jacobson once greeted base visitors as a guard.

Further, a training facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, an Air Force-level Award for Expeditionary Excellence, as well as a street at a base in Southwest Asia, was named in her honor.

Jacobson has arguably become one of the most recognizable faces of recent Air Force history and has taken her place among other Air Force heroes on the pages of the Air Force's professional development guide.

For family and friends however, Jacobson is most remembered for her good nature, smile and sense of enthusiasm. Even in a combat zone, she kept her morale, jokingly writing in a letter that the "room service" in the camp was terrible.

"What I think I will miss most about her is the way she could cheer you up no matter what mood you were in," said then-Senior Airman Christopher Bauer, a friend and fellow security forces member. "After she deployed, she called me two or three times a month. She loved what she was doing."

In her own words, Jacobson once shared her favorite quote with friends online. "We're only on earth for a little while," she wrote. "So live life to the fullest and carry a smile."

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