Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: Lt. Cmdr. William J. Jacobs

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Dy Nyse
U.S. Coast Guard PADET Tampa Bay

Capt. Ward Sandlin, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer, and Command Master Chief Matthew Boyd present the Capt. John G. Witherspoon to Lt. Cmdr. William Jacobs at an awards ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Capt. Ward Sandlin, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer, and Command Master Chief Matthew Boyd present the Capt. John G. Witherspoon to Lt. Cmdr. William Jacobs at an awards ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Every year an active duty and reserve officer are recognized for their role in mentoring personnel toward their highest potential and leadership that exemplifies the Coast Guard’s core values.

Nominees must be a mentor, a pioneer, a leader, an honorable shipmate, someone who commands respect and be a “do-as-I-do” kind of leader.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Jacobs’ selfless devotion to others resulted in his selection of this year’s active duty Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award.

“Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Jacobs is one of the most talented officers I have had the privilege of working with during my 19-year career in the United States Coast Guard,” said Cmdr. Michael Lachowicz, engineering officer at Air Station Clearwater, and Jacobs’ supervisor. “I am so happy to see his years of dedicated servant leadership recognized in such a prestigious award and on such a grand stage. I am so proud of Jeff’s accomplishments, and I know that I will continue to see his amazing and profound impact for the Coast Guard in the future.”

Jacobs was born and raised in South Hill, Virgina. He attended the College of William & Mary where he obtained a Bachelor’s of Art in Government and History. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2002, and his first unit was the Coast Guard Cutter Dependable, a 210-foot Reliance-class medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He attended Gunner’s Mate class “A” school in 2003. He was selected for Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 2004. After, he attended Naval Flight Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola and earned his Naval Aviator Wings of Gold in 2006. He has since served at Air Station’s Savannah, Cape Cod and Clearwater. He will be going to Air Station Sitka, Alaska in June 2018 to serve as the aeronautical engineering officer.

“The Coast Guard mission inspires me,” said Jacobs. “I cannot think of a greater organization that is committed to preserving the environment and helping others in need. Each day, our men and women are confronted with challenges that require levels of commitment and devotion to duty that most cannot comprehend. It takes a special group of people to achieve that level of commitment day-in and day-out, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year.”

Jacobs was one of the many to deploy to Puerto Rico to support relief efforts following the passage of Hurricane Maria. Now, as the anniversary of the 2017 hurricane season approaches, Jacobs is being honored for the leadership he displayed during the most challenging of times. As the senior aviator, he was charged with leading a detachment of two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and 12 personnel from Air Station Clearwater who deployed to Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico.

“Once we arrived, we realized just how devastating the storm was to the island of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Jacobs. “With limited food, water, berthing and communications, we assisted the air station, Sector San Juan, the Coast Guard’s 7th District and a host of other Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense partners.”

Jacobs understood the enormity of the situation. He attempted to alleviate the burden placed on those who were stationed and had been through so much. Coordinating maintenance and flight operations with no cell phone or computer access proved to be a challenge, so his team quickly forged relationships to assist with mission execution. This included communications assistance from a the Coast Guard Communications Command from Chesapeake, Virginia, airborne tasking from DOD and DHS fixed-wing controllers, lodging from local vendors and a host of other intangibles from air station and Sector San Juan personnel.

Capt. Ward Sandlin, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer, presents the Capt. John G. Witherspoon to Lt. Cmdr. William Jacobs at an awards ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Capt. Ward Sandlin, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer, presents the Capt. John G. Witherspoon to Lt. Cmdr. William Jacobs at an awards ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“I worked closely with our maintenance chief petty officer and we developed daily schedules that ensured we maintained 24-hour coverage for emergent missions that arose throughout the area of responsibility,” said Jacobs. “We also worked to maintain morale and got really good at determining which meals ready to eat were most desirable. Overall, this experience was a defining moment for me. I bolstered my leadership abilities by reinforcing the importance of communications and taking care of your personnel while executing core Coast Guard missions and assisting those in need.“

Jacobs is humbled to lead people of the Coast Guard’s caliber. People who are willing to risk their safety to protect our country and to save the lives of others. Jacobs encourages our leaders, at every level, to look to your Chief’s Mess for guidance and inspiration.

“Over the years, whatever my rank, the Chief’s Mess has molded, mentored and guided me,” said Jacobs. “As I grow more senior, I continue to seek their advice, rely on their experience and value their friendships. The men and women of the Chief’s Mess are truly the nucleus around which the Coast Guard forms and is a source of inspiration.”

Jacobs has served in the Coast Guard for 15 years, he has seen many missions in that brief span, and he is motivated by the fact that every day brings a new challenge. During his career, the men and women of the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary saved thousands in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, responded to the Deepwater Horizon recovery effort and defended the ports and waterways of the Persian Gulf.

“From the newest graduate at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May to the commandant of the Coast Guard, we are all leaders and it is imperative that we anticipate threats, whether natural or man-made, train our people and provide them the resources they need to execute whatever missions lie ahead. We empower our people to do great things, and our history has proven that we are the first to respond when called upon. The amount of trust and faith that our nation puts into the Coast Guard is what motivates me,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs served as Air Station Clearwater’s assistant aeronautical engineering officer and led 327 personnel in the execution of all facets of maintenance, logistics, and operations on four legacy HC-l30 Hercules airplanes, and 10 MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. He managed a $2 million budget, a $35 million spare parts inventory, and a 32-acre capital plant. Furthermore, serving the air station as a senior Jayhawk instructor pilot and flight examiner (highest pilot qualification), he flew 310 flight hours, completed 27 instructor flights and presided over 10 pilot upgrade boards. He directly mentored five pilots through their upgrade syllabi, preparing them for leadership and further qualification in the aircraft.

“What impresses me the most with Jeff is his unparalleled commitment to those he leads and his supreme character,” said Lachowicz. “He is not one to just preach about leadership or make statements, but instead he demonstrates it on a daily basis.”

Jacobs’s leadership is not limited to the Coast Guard. As a model citizen in the community, he worked diligently on the Parent Teacher Advisory Council at a local elementary school, working to improve facilities, curriculum, teacher interactions, and the learning culture within the facility. After hours, Jacobs volunteered his time to coach three youth baseball teams and participate in a Tampa Bay military softball tournament.

“Jacobs is an exceptional leader. His outstanding performance is a testament to the constant pursuit of excellence for aviators throughout the Coast Guard, but in this case I’m particularly proud of the fact that one of our service’s best leadership role models is stationed here.” said Capt. Ward Sandlin, Air Station Clearwater commanding officer. “We take a great deal of pride in Jeff and, as he moves forward in his career, I’m certain we’ll continue to hear great things about achievements, professionalism and character.”

Jacobs married his wife, Adrian, in 2004 and has two children.

In 1982, Capt. John G. Witherspoon was the first African-American to command a Coast Guard shore unit and the second African-American to command a cutter. Witherspoon’s soft-spoken mentorship gently touched many lives, yet left a strong, lasting impression on all who knew him. The Coast Guard established The Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award in his memory.

The Inspirational Leadership Awards are sponsored by the Coast Guard’s Office of Leadership and serve to recognize those Coast Guard men and women who demonstrate proficiency in leadership and best exemplify the Coast Guard’s core values of values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty.

Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the by emailing the Social Media team.

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