Fourth-generation Airman carries long legacy

  • Published
  • By Brian Shreve
  • Robins Public Affairs
With an Airman Battle Uniform on her back and a lot of history on her shoulders, serving in the military isn't just a family tradition for Tech. Sgt. Jessica Fordham - it's "everything."

Fordham, 32, has served the USAF for nearly 12 years, representing her own link of a chain that goes back four generations.

"It's our heritage. It's in our blood," she said. "With everything about us, it's about the military."

Though her family's legacy with the military stretches back to the Civil War, the consistent line of those who have served began with her great grandfather who fought alongside her grandfather, retired Chief Master Sgt. Charlie Sibert, in World War II.

A member of the Army Air Corps, Sibert was held by the Germans as a prisoner of war and later went on to serve in the Korean War.

Fordham's father, John Sibert, and her uncle both served the Navy in Vietnam.

An only child, Fordham added her own unique place in the family record books by becoming the first woman to serve.

Her grandmother, however, was a real-life Rosie the Riveter during World War II, working at a military factory.

"She did the same job I do, working with sheet metal," said Fordham. "That's a really big thing for me, and I didn't find that out until three or four years ago."

Fordham is a member of the 402nd Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Flight and has been stationed at Robins for the past nine years, something she considers the highlight of her career.

"I'm in an amazing unit," she said. "It's very small, and we're very tight knit. It's been an honor to be here with them, and they're like family now."

Born in Missouri, Fordham grew up in California where she was raised by her aunt, who she thanks for convincing her to join the Air Force in the first place.

"I was looking more towards the Marines or the Army," she said. "She reminded me that my grandfather would be so proud of me."

Fordham and her husband, Bryan, have four children ages 2 to 12. Like so many who serve, she knows firsthand the challenges of being both Airman and mother.

"You just have to find that balance and be open with your children," said Fordham. "Speak with them and let them know what's going on and why you can't do certain things but are able to do other things. The older they get, the more they understand."

Though she has yet to be deployed, Fordham's job of repairing damaged aircraft calls for her to travel to different parts of the world, spending time away from her family for weeks or even months at a time.

Even for someone who loves her work, she added that this necessary part of the job can be toilsome.

"The hardest part is leaving my family, leaving my husband to take care of it all," she said.

Fordham has often wondered which of her young children - three of them girls - are most likely to follow in so many boot steps before them.

"I keep saying my oldest is going to because she's kind of wild like I was," she said. "She says she doesn't want to ever do it, but at her age I would've said the same thing. It's hard to say."

According to Fordham, her career in the AF has been one of mutual service, one that provided her with a second family during a tumultuous time in her life.

"There was a point in my life when things weren't going well for me. I did a lot of things I probably shouldn't have done," she said. "When I joined, I had a drill sergeant who told me I didn't have to go down that road, that I had potential. And that really struck something in me."