Service Branch: United States Air Force/Nebraska Air National Guard
Current Rank: Master Sergeant
Combat Action: Global War on Terrorism - Afghanistan
Home Town: Lincoln
Military Specialty: First Sergeant
Unit: 451st Air Expeditionary Opns Grp - Kandahar AF, AFG
Decorations, Citations, and Awards: - Meritorious Service Medal w/ device, Air Force Commendation Medal w/ device, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Award, NATO Medal
"Management” and “Leadership”— too many people consider these to be interchangeable disciplines…opposite sides of the same coin, so to speak. Nothing could be farther from reality. Management is all about the planning, execution, and control of effective processes, while leadership seeks to motivate and mentor the creative resource. Complex organizational structures, such as military units, require rigid process management – chain of command, span of control, formal protocols, etc. Combat operations cannot succeed and combat units cannot survive without competent, committed leadership. As a senior non-commissioned officer in a Combat Air Wing, deployed on foreign soil, and engaged with hostile forces, Master Sergeant Jody Kouma was duty-bound both to manage and to lead.
For those unfamiliar with USAF Command Structure, an Air Wing is roughly equivalent to a U.S. Army Regiment; a Group roughly equivalent to a Battalion; a Squadron, to a Company; and so on. The 451st Expeditionary Operations Group is the primary delivery arm of the U.S. Air Force’s 451st Air Expeditionary Wing deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, and guaranteeing that all of the muscles, tendons, and nerves of that arm are in shape to deliver its punch is the job of the Group First Sergeant (ranking NCO). During her tour in 2012 – 2013, that was MSgt. Kouma’s assignment. She was responsible for ensuring that 685 personnel in nine squadrons arrayed across five diverse locations were properly fed, clothed, quartered, trained, equipped, informed, oriented, acclimated, motivated, and generally fit for highly technical, hazardous duty in a combat zone. During her tenure, the USAF Central Command’s most diverse operations group flew 120 aircraft – F-16 Fighting Falcons and C-130 Hercules – in more than 13,000 sorties compiling 81,000 mission hours of close air support, airlift, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and airborne command & control; and provided datalink command & control for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones.
In addition to those at KDH, personnel assigned to detachments at four Forward Operating Bases – Shindand, Bagram, Jalalabad, and Camp Bastion – came under MSgt. Kouma’s watchful eye. Finally, since Kandahar is a NATO installation, she would occasionally find herself thrust into the role of diplomat, interacting with her military counterparts from 40 different nations. Not just any military counterpart, mind you…while she was eating lunch at Camp Bastion’s British dining facility, who should be at the next table but Prince Harry! Rumor has it that HRH was thrilled to have dined in the same facility with U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Jody Kouma.
During the drawdown, MSgt. Kouma managed the logistics of two unit closures and two large unit swaps, involving over 400 aircrew personnel, with no negative impact to the Air Tasking Order. During her tour, she was responsible for the coordination of 400 hours of security over watch for captured insurgents. Jody achieved all of this with skill and professionalism amid an indigenous culture that still pretty much considers women as property.
“I am most proud of the Group’s Airmen who were sent downrange and successfully completed 450 TIC's (Troops in Contact), 600 primary targeting events, 175 kinetic strikes, 230 airdrops, and delivered 3,000 tons of cargo. I was privileged to participate in some of these actions. Others I witnessed, firsthand, or on video.”
A 1994 graduate of Northeast High School, Jody and her son, Elijah, live in Lincoln. She is currently First Sergeant for the 155th Medical Group of the Nebraska Air National Guard.