BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
For military couples, join spouse life brings a unique set of challenges, let alone meeting the demands and surpassing the standards required for promotion. While not uncommon for couples of equal rank to be selected for promotion within the same year, it is a rarity to “pin-on” or make rank at the same time.
But for one Eighth Air Force husband and wife team, they not only promoted together, they have done it twice in their careers.
On April 20, during a shared promotion ceremony at Barksdale AFB, Majors Shane and Jennifer Garrison celebrated their new rank of lieutenant colonel amongst family, friends, mentors and community leaders.
“There were more people at the ceremony than our wedding,” Shane said. “It was the first time since then that most of our family has been together. We wanted to share this with both sides of our family, which have been such a huge support factor for us.”
The newly-minted colonels just celebrated their 10-year anniversary days prior.
“This event holds great meaning for us,” Jennifer said. “It translates to 15 years of hard work within the military and more than a decade as a family, with a lot of backing and support from my partner.”
Unlike most ceremonies where the spouse typically pins on a member’s new rank, the honor went to the couple’s parents and children.
“We’ve been blessed with two great families that were essential when lightening the load associated with dual military parents,” Jennifer said. “It made it much easier to stay a complete family.”
From the get-go our parents have been all in for our military service, Shane added.
Jennifer, originally from Gulfport, Miss., and Shane, hailing from Seminole, Texas, both earned a commission in May 2003 through ROTC, albeit through different schools. Post college, they met at Squadron Officer School, but it wasn’t until Undergraduate Air Battle Manager Training at Tyndall AFB, Florida, where the two connected and later became Air Force air battle managers (ABMs).
ABMs are the command and control component for operational and training missions, which can take place on the ground in air operation or control and reporting centers or on airborne platforms like the E-3 AWACS or JSTARS. The Garrisons are both E-3/CRC ABMs.
When reflecting upon the beginning of their careers (and life as a join spouse couple), the colonels had this to say…
“During the first year of marriage we only saw each other 21 days,” Shane said. “The second year we were only together a total of 28 days between deployments and temporary duty locations.”
Jennifer recalled having the good fortune of a three-day overlap at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, UAE while both being on deployment.
It didn’t take long for the couple to experience the challenges associated with dual military careers, especially when their family was about to grow.
“Kids. The incorporation of kids is by far the biggest adjustment,” Shane said.
For Jennifer, one of the biggest challenges was planning an international move while deployed.
“Planning an overseas move (Germany) while both being deployed was a huge ordeal,” Jennifer said.
In the midst of several obstacles, the Garrisons experienced some good news -- their first dual promotion.
“It took place when making major,” Jennifer said. “We knew it was uncommon, but I was pregnant with our first child at the time and didn’t think much of it.”
The husband and wife team attributed much of their success to the benefits of both being a part of the Air Force.
“For me, it boils down to understanding,” Shane said. She understands the nature of the job and what it takes to be successful in the Air Force. At the same time, your significant other gets to serve on their own accord.”
“Especially when deployed,” Jennifer added. And without having to say or explain too much they understand. We try to balance it really well.”
Little did Shane and Jennifer know that just less than five years later, while serving at Eighth Air Force, they would experience yet another promotion together.
“To stand there side by side in front of our kids, Sydney (age 4) and Lillian (age 2), and family is the best feeling in the world,” Shane said.
“You always hope for the best, but you never know what exactly the Air Force is looking for when making selections,” Jennifer said. “And our selection to lieutenant colonel just so happened to put us in the same month for promotion.”
Presently, Jennifer serves as the executive officer to the commander of Eighth Air Force. She sees to the day-to-day needs of the commander and is responsible for anything that would require the leader’s oversight or coordination.
Shane serves as the chief of operational support within the Joint Nuclear Operations Center (a component of the newly formed Joint-Global Strike Operations Center) and is responsible for direction and deliverance of strategic bomber, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and reconnaissance capabilities to U.S. Strategic Command.
This summer Lieutenant Colonels Shane and Jennifer Garrison will return to a flying mission at Tinker AFB, Okla., where the E-3 AWACs reside. But one thing is certain.
“They are two of our finest,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere, Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander. “We have great aspirations of what they’ll continue to do for our Air Force.”