JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - - Born and raised in Gaston, South Carolina, one airman never imagined he would grow up to be a pilot in the Air Force.
Capt. Jarod Washington, 15th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment commander, grew up with a military influence. His grandfather was enlisted in the Army and his dad was enlisted in the South Carolina Air National Guard.
During high school, Washington was inspired by his roommate’s dad, an Air Force Captain. For the first time in his life he began to picture himself as an officer in the Air Force.
“The first time I met an African American pilot I thought, okay, this is achievable,” said Washington. “The first stepping stone was getting into the Air Force Academy.”
With his family's full support, he began his career at the Academy as only one of two African Americans in his pilot training class.
“There weren't a ton of African Americans in my class at the Academy,” said Washington. “While diversity was an obstacle, it has also been one of the biggest strengths. We all rallied as a group and took the time to understand each other's cultures and to make sure people felt included.”
“That has allowed me to grow and succeed, make it through pilot training and get through the Academy which were two very difficult things to do in my life,” continued Washington.
The first time he flew a solo flight, Washington knew he had chosen the right career field.
“As soon as I landed, that was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” said Washington. “At that point, I wanted to fly planes as much as possible.”
Washington now feels like he owes it to other people to pave the way and show them that anyone has the aptitude to be whoever they want to be.
“I have a lot of inspirational figures and mentors I look up to, and now feel like I owe that same level of giving back to other people,” said Washington. “Now as an instructor pilot, my students can look at me and say, ‘he was in my position several years ago, and I can do exactly what he did’.”
Washington does what he can to be an inspiration and a mentor to his Airmen and to anyone he meets. He thinks that the example is set at a young age and that if you see someone who shares your same background as a young child, it can be ingrained that you can do anything.
“I would have never thought I would be where I am today,” said Washington. “I think it is really cool to think back to my six or seven year old self, and reflect on how proud he would be to know that this is where he would be in 20 years.”