Exploring the new

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Bumpus

Change is a constant force for members of the U.S. Air Force.

Different assignments, different ranks and different positions all bring new elements and responsibilities to an ever-evolving mission.

As Lt. Col. John Jansheski, 423rd Security Forces Squadron Commander, looked back on his career leading up to his promotion to lieutenant colonel, he recognized that adapting to changing circumstances has been key throughout his Air Force journey.

“The only constant in my career has been the new,” said Jansheski. “Be prepared for new all the time. Everything is new, every section I’ve gone into is different. I’m on my third command now, if you count the one I was deployed to, and they were all different. They were all different structures. They were all different jobs.”

Starting his career as an airman first class in 1999, Jansheski has seen a great deal of change, both in his own work and in the Air Force as a whole.

“The things that I was told to do or the positions that I was put in when I first commissioned always felt significantly different from anything that existed when I first came in,” said Jansheski. “I was only enlisted for two years, but it was so different. I joined in 1999, I was at my first base by 2000 and I went to get commissioned about ten days after September 11th,” Jansheski paused, reflecting on the tumultuous time. “September 11th changed everything,” he said. “There’s this thing called airbase defense where you come in and set up an airbase, I’d already been deployed so I was pretty sure that airbase defense just didn’t exist anymore. When we went to Saudi Arabia that base was already set up, I was at the gate, it was hot and that was the whole deployment.

Once Jansheski commissioned however, the Air Force he had come to understand changed all around him. After 9/11 the way Airmen executed operations drastically shifted.

“We went over airbase defense in tech school, which was fun,” said Jansheski. “But a year later I was deployed to Iraq doing airbase defense, setting up a base from nothing. None of the people I had worked with prior had done anything like that. They’d all planned for it or exercised it, but nobody had done it.”

As he continued his career, new challenges leapt in his path, sometimes in ways he never saw coming.

“At one point I was the one-man security detail for the F-16 training mission in Egypt,” said Jansheski. “Somehow I ended up getting tied into the Suez Canal, transiting on whatever U.S. flagship happened to be coming through. Sometimes they were traditional Navy ships, but sometimes they were just big civilian freighters that for whatever reason were taking U.S. flagship status. One of those ships was docked down in Port Suez with some Navy Masters-at-Arms on board for security.”

In Port Suez, when ships are docked, smaller boats will often come up and try to sell goods, an practice that could potentially leave the ship open to an attack. It was a nerve racking situation for the Masters-at-Arms, said Jansheski, especially after the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 where a small boat rammed the Navy ship, killing 17 sailors.

“The Masters-at-Arms reported that some boats came towards this flagship,” said Jansheski. “Since they didn’t know the status of the boats they obviously didn’t want to let them get close enough to strike. First they used a loud speaker, which worked for all but one boat. So they fired off a pencil flare, but it still didn’t turn around. So they went to their final option and fired off a few warning shots from their .50 cal. They counted their shots, saw them all hit the water, and then the boat turned around and went back.”

What seemed to be a resolved incident quickly spiraled out of control.                                                                 

“I got a phone called a little later from an Egyptian agency saying that one of the men on that boat had been shot,” said Jansheski. “Obviously the Egyptians were quite upset, and at this point we had very conflicting statements. Nobody on our side believed we had shot him, so we asked to do an autopsy. But, in Islam they want to bury the body within 24 hours, so initially they refused to have one performed. It took a call from the major general I worked for to convince them to get one done.”

“I had a problem though,” Jansheski continued. “I was in Cairo and the autopsy was in Suez,” he said. “We were prohibited from driving at night because of the dangerous roads in Egypt, and I didn’t even know if I could find the place. So I got a driver and the whole drive down I’m on the phone trying to figure out what I’m walking into, it was a situation that I could have never prepared for. We finally managed to find it and it was a circus in there. It was a royal mess. It ended up that he had been tagged by some sort of ricochet from the warning shots. They didn’t know how but they’d hit him. It was a crazy situation.”

While not without struggle, the ordeal was resolved and from it came part of a valuable lesson for Jansheski.

“There have been a lot of those situations where you just have no idea what to expect,” said Jansheski with a smile. “Through those I’ve become better at relying on others. I don’t think that that’s a skill I brought with me into the military at all, being able to trust others and letting them surprise you. We bring some great people into the Air Force and I’ve been very lucky to be able to lean back on them.”

Even now Jansheski is constantly faced by new challenges and change.

“Being overseas, my squadron is always shifting,” said Jansheski. “Most people are only here for two or three years. Since I’ve been here I’ve had at least three different staffs, and that’s just the people who work in the back office. I’ve had to learn to rely on them because I can’t be a do-er anymore, at my level if I’m still trying to do everything I’d be a pretty big failure as an officer, and as a commander in particular.”

However Jansheski is still looking forward to what he has yet to learn.

“I want to continue to learn,” said Jansheski. “I want to continue to do interesting things. There are many things about the Air Force that I don’t know. There’s so much new left, and the more I learn the more I can help my Airmen. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to help the Airmen.”