DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
“What’s it like to serve in the Air Force?”
Chief Master Sgt. Adrienne Warren, 7th Mission Support Group superintendent
“[Long pause] Wow, that’s a great question,” said Warren. “After serving 23 years, I have to go back to the beginning to answer that question.”
“I’ve always been a family person, and my dad, Oscar Jackson Jr., was one of my favorite people in the world growing up,” said Warren. “I was his only daughter, so we naturally bumped heads sometimes. He was always on my case, but very protective of me.”
Warren said her dad watched her every decision and it was almost overwhelming at times.
“I wanted to say, ‘Dad, I’m listening,’ ‘I’m going to be okay,’” she said and smiled. “But even as a stubborn teen, I knew he just cared about me. He wanted me to be just as strong as the boys.”
One decision Warren’s dad loved was her decision to join the Air Force at 18-years old.
“He served four years in the Navy, so he knew the military was a great choice for me,” said Warren. “After I joined the delayed-entry program with an AF recruiter, he was so proud. I remember feeling so excited to graduate from Basic Military Training for him and all my family.”
One month before BMT, tragedy hit.
“As an 18-year old girl, I found my dad lifeless on his bed,” said Warren while holding back tears. “I… I… [Tears fall] it’s crazy because this was 23 years ago and I still struggle to talk about this. It was bad.”
Oscar died after suffering an unexpected heart attack.
“My family and I were a mess,” said Warren. “There was no way we could predict it happening. He had more life to live.”
“After his death we cried, cried and cried some more for about a month, but I knew I still had something to do for dad,” said Warren.
On a cold night in 1997, one month after losing her dad, Warren arrived at BMT.
“There I was, getting screamed at, marching and barely sleeping, with 50 other girls,” said Warren. “While all of that was happening, I was still in anguish. At times, I felt guilty for being too busy trying to become an Airman, rather than mourning with my family. But one thought always alleviated that, ‘Dad wanted me here.’”
“I didn’t understand the magnitude of the values and lessons my dad taught me until I lost him,” said Warren. “I didn’t realize how much he helped me grow.”
Warren said she learned at BMT that the lessons wouldn’t stop just because her dad passed.
“I had a new family now,” said Warren. “I came from a situation where I could have broken down, but the AF took me in and I grew.”
The transition into the AF helped Warren get back on her feet after losing her dad. After 23 years of service, she says it’s the most valuable thing she could have done for herself.
“Serving changes you for the better,” said Warren. “Service awakens a power within people they might not know they have.”
Warren said the Air Force inspires growth but doesn’t necessarily force it.
“Countless times, I’ve seen people who don’t want to go to school, join the AF and obtain a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “No one has it figured out after high school. The Air Force has it figured out. You’ll grow. I can’t put it into words how much you’ll grow.”
Women make up approximately 20 percent of the AF, according to studies conducted in 2016.
“I’m not saying this because of my gender, but women are just as important as men in the military,” said Warren. “After 23 years, that’s how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, the AF has changed a lot since I’ve came in, but women are in a great place and it’s only getting better.”
Warren was selected for the highest enlisted rank of chief master sgt. in 2018.
“To answer the question, ‘what’s it like to serve:’ It’s amazing and it’s a family,” said Warren. “It’s the best decision I could have made and my dad knew that. I like knowing I made him proud.”
Editor's note: This feature is part of Dyess Air Force Base’s recognition of Women’s History Month. These stories recognize the rich legacy of women in the Armed Services by highlighting the Air Force stories of single individuals.