JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Supporting her Air National Guard team is what drives Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Masters, the Air National Guard's Outstanding Airman of the Year.
Masters, assigned to the 178th Wing at Springfield Air National Guard Base, Ohio, was selected for this honor because of her exceptional dedication to the mission and her commitment to improving the Airmen around her.
"I have a great group of teammates," she said. "When we're in a mission, we're all on one page. We're all working toward a common goal of helping the warfighter and get him the best knowledge, the best assets, the best capabilities to help him do his job."
Masters' quickly developed a reputation for building team spirit and unity upon her arrival to the wing.
"No one person can do any type of job without the help of someone else, whether it's directly seen or behind the scenes," she said. "That's what I tell everyone else, and they've kind of nicknamed me 'The Coach' at work. I talk about the one team, one fight concept. They think I'm 'blued-up' and a little corny, and maybe I am. But you truly can't get anywhere without people beside you."
While Masters comes from a family with military service in its history, wearing the nation's uniform was not always her goal.
"After college, I worked in marketing and I started to catch on that people were stressing out about small little details, like what the week's sales projections were," Masters said. "They were coming in on their days off and sacrificing vacations. For a business, that is important, but I wanted to work overtime for a bigger reason than selling more sofas or making sure sales were up. I wanted a sense of purpose."
The ability to serve part time in the Guard while advancing her career seemed to be the ideal fit.
"I started looking into the Guard, but what ultimately inspired me to join was that my younger brother had always wanted to join," Masters said. "He wanted to be a fighter pilot, to make it his life. He's incredibly smart, and it's amazing how much he knows about aircraft and Air Force history. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and was unable to join, which was a huge blow to him.
"It's been motivating. Seeing him at my basic training graduation was incredibly humbling, because I know he wanted to be standing out there too," she continued. "Since then, I feel the drive that I'm not just doing it for me, I'm also doing it for him."
Masters also draws inspiration from the Airmen around her. She credits her squadron supervisor with being an outstanding mentor and role model for her service.
"My chief from my first unit in Maryland, Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Wright, he cared about me not just as an employee but as a person," she said. "He showed me that it's not just about how well someone does at a job, it's about all the other factors that go into that job. That kind of leadership was extremely helpful. It's definitely beneficial, and that's how I'd like to lead as well.
"Chief Wright still continues to mentor me, too," she explained. "He's a chief in Maryland and I'm out in Ohio, but he still stays in touch with me. He occasionally comes on (temporary duty), so we catch up. It's awesome to have someone like him in my corner, even if he's not my leadership anymore."
Masters feels it's important to pass along her knowledge and experience to her teammates. Just as she has benefited from valuable mentorship, she looks for others in whom she can inspire success.
"I used to coach cheerleading back in Maryland, and I loved it," she said. "I coached 14 and 15 year-old girls who were going through high school and had their own stresses about boys, parents or teachers. Being able to have them leave those issues at the door and come in the gym and give 110 percent in practice was great. Right after that, then we would go grab those issues and talk through them. That's my team. I used to tell them, "Guys, we're one team, one fight.”
Masters says she's committed to a career in the Guard, and is always looking for a new challenge.
"I would love to be an Intelligence officer," she said. "I like the capability to help people and work with them, as well as help make changes happen. Intel is one of those career paths where you keep practicing and keep learning -- it's a constant battle to know more and understand because things change so much.”