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Fallen Airman
Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson
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Not left behind: Wingman keeps fallen Airman's memory alive

Posted 9/27/2012   Updated 9/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Mike Joseph
JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

9/27/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Seven years ago today, on Sept. 28, 2005, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, a security forces member, became the first female Airman killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom while providing convoy security support.

The fallen security forces Airman has been honored in numerous ways following her death.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, new basic trainees learn about Jacobson in Air Force history, and an Air Force Basic Military Training complex now bears her name.

In fact, the same unit she was assigned to during basic training, the 324th Training Squadron, now resides in the Elizabeth N. Jacobson Training Complex.

During the past 15 months, an Airman who served with Jacobson on that fateful Iraqi deployment has shared stories about her service and dedication with the medical hold trainees in the 324th TRS.

Staff Sgt. Shaun O'Dell, who was stationed with Jacobson as members of the Security Forces squadron at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, deployed with her as part of a 13-man team sent to Camp Bucca, Iraq.

"I share a more personable story about Liz with the trainees," said O'Dell, who cross-trained into bio-environmental engineering in 2007. He is assigned to the 59th Medical Wing, 559th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, but left JBSA-Lackland Sept. 8 to attend Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, Ala., and will return to the security forces career field as an officer after graduation.

"There's only a brief synopsis about Liz in BMT," O'Dell said. "You can read about Liz all day when you look her up online. But to actually meet someone who had deployed, trained and interacted with her makes it more personal.

"There are three of us, including me, still left on active duty from that deployment team," he said, "so I think it's important to share her story."

Lt. Col. Paul Lips, 324th TRS commander, agreed with O'Dell on the importance of talking about Jacobson.

"As part of the BMT curriculum, the trainees are required to study about Airman Jacobson," said Lips. "It's an opportunity for these trainees to learn about Elizabeth the person, and how much she and her family sacrificed for their (the trainees') freedoms.

"In the eighth-week departure brief, the day before they become Airmen, I talk to them about our tradition of honor and legacy of valor," he said. "I tie in to historic examples, and try to include people like Airman Jacobson, too. I also talk about the Airman's Creed and how you never leave a wingman behind. What Sergeant O'Dell is doing is not leaving Airman Jacobson's memory behind."

O'Dell opens with a video, which includes photos of Jacobson in basic training, technical training, and at Camp Bucca. It also shows images of her casket being loaded on the plane.

Each time he sees the video, O'Dell admits it's hard to control his emotions.

"I try to put on a hardened image every time I see the video, but I'll break down into tears especially when I see her casket being loaded," O'Dell said. "I was there and it's something you don't forget."

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