Distinguished career for area native
CHANTILLY, Va. - Long before Jeffrey N. Fawcett began flying around the world as a U.S. Air Force pilot, he was racing to Cox's Market on his school lunch break for a big, juicy steak.
Those were the days when high school students could leave for lunch.
And those moments provided Fawcett and his longtime best friend, Dr. Walter Cox, with some of his best high school memories.
A 1978 graduate of Ringgold High School's Donora campus, Fawcett grew up in Monongahela. Soon after, he embarked on a 28-year career with the U.S. Air Force and earned several college degrees.
"For a kid from the Valley with just a high school diploma, the Air Force has given me a career that has taken me around the world," he said.
He has fond memories growing up in the Valley. He credits his parents, Anna Mae and John M. Fawcett Sr., of Monongahela, for instilling in him a hard work ethic and love for his country.
"I also give a lot of credit to my teachers and I'm still in touch with many of them," he said.
He often returns to visit his family and friends.
"It's always good to come home," said Fawcett, who lives in Chantilly, Va., with his wife of 28 years, Elizabeth.
Although he is now a retired Air Force officer, he is still working for the military. He was recently selected as the deputy chief of Air Force Foreign Liaison, headquartered at the U.S. Air Force, in Washington, D.C.
He oversees a staff responsible for planning and executing the Air Force Counterpart program and the Air Force Foreign Attache program.
These programs include official social functions, conferences, tours and special events hosted by top ranking Air Force officials.
He advises the Air Force leadership on diplomatic liaison policies with international visitors to ensure cultural sensitivities are met. He also maintains expertise on Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force organization, structure and functions at all hierarchical levels.
It's a job that still has him traveling frequently, although he now is a civilian.
"It's taken some time getting used to not being in uniform," he said.
His long career in the Air Force covered 10 years in the enlisted ranks, 15 years as an officer and three years as a civilian.
In 1979, he began as a security police officer.
He met his wife, the former Elizabeth St. Martin, of Fairfax, Va., while he was stationed in Washington, D.C., with the Air Force Honor Guard, Bolling Air Force Base. He served there for six years.
The daughter of a naval officer, Fawcett said his wife understands the military life.
"She never complained and has been there 100 percent for our kids," she said.
His career also gave his children opportunities to travel and get the VIP treatment, such as getting to go inside a B-2 bomber and watching the Thunderbirds aerial show before anyone else.
"My son got to sit in the cockpit," he said.
Their son, Jeffrey Noel Jr., 23, is a teacher and their daughter, Jacqueline Nicole, 21, is a college senior.
The couple's first son, Steven Robert, died in infancy and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Fawcett says he will never forget how the military supported him as a young airman and his wife after the devastating death of their son.
"I was in the Honor Guard at the time and the Air Force family was there for us," he said.
Fawcett's family has a long history of military service. In fact, he has relatives who own a portion of the land the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies is now occupied on in Cecil Township. A family cemetery is located on the land off of Fawcett Road.
Fawcett comes from a long line of military service.
His cousin, Dennis Fawcett, was the first soldier from the Valley killed in Vietnam in 1966. He was a Green Beret from Monongahela.
His brother, John Fawcett Jr. is a Gulf War veteran and his father served in the U.S. Army.
Fawcett said he always knew he was destined to serve in the military.
He remembers the first time he flew in an airplane as a young boy to Colorado Springs, Colo.
"At the time, flying was a big deal," he said.
He decided to enlist in the Air Force because it offered the best educational opportunities at the time.
His career has soared ever since - on and off the air field.
He is a cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland, with a bachelor of science degree in criminology and is an Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor Society member. He holds a master's degree in education (career guidance and counseling) from Northern Montana College.
With the Air Force, he has been to 45 U.S. states and visited 35 countries.
He has taken on many roles with the Air Force.
He did a four-year tour as an Air Force recruiter.
After Officer Training School, he reported to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, where he served four years as a deputy crew commander, instructor deputy crew commander, crew commander and flight commander, completing more than 200 nuclear missile alerts.
Fawcett said serving on missile alerts was a daunting task. He said he had to drive about two hours to get to the launch control field and travel underground 80 feet to sit alone with the missiles for 24 hours.
He admits his family always worried about him, but Fawcett has always had an adventurous side.
"I was always the kid with the broken leg and stitches," he said. "I was always into something."
His adventurous side would come in handy when he was selected in 1993 to report for duty at U.S. Air Forces in Europe, headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany where he served as a command protocol officer and deputy chief, command protocol.
In 1995, General Richard E. Hawley, commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of the Allied Air Forces Central Europe selected him to serve as his Aide-de-Camp.
He moved with Hawley to Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in 1996, where he continued to be his Aide-de-Camp until June 1999, when General Hawley retired.
Fawcett's last active duty assignment was assistant professor of Aerospace Studies and Operation Officer, Air Force ROTC at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).
He also served as assistant commandant of Cadets at Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC) from 2004-2005.
From 2005-2008, he was deputy director of ceremonies and protocol, Air Force District of Washington, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
In this position, he developed and executed Air Force ceremonies for high ranking officials including general officer retirements, promotions, change of command ceremonies, funerals at Arlington National Cemetery and arrival and wreath-laying ceremonies for foreign Air Force chiefs of staff.
His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, the Joint Service and Air Force Achievement Medals, Combat Readiness Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon.
His civilian awards include the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and Civilian Achievement Medal.