Michigan National Guard
Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker
LANSING, Mich.—Through mentorship and a diversified background, the Michigan Air National Guard recently welcomed Col. Jeffery Alexander to the general officer ranks.
“This is a big day for the Air Force—a huge day,” said U.S. Air Force Brig Gen Bryan J. Teff, assistant adjutant general, Michigan Air National Guard. “We get to promote one of our colonels to brigadier general, which is a huge day for Michigan and for the Air National Guard."
Military careers can take twists and turns that lead us to the right place at the right time.
“You can see the gold wings on his chest,” said Teff, talking about Alexander. “He commissioned in 1990 in the United States Navy, went to pilot training and flew helicopters and spent almost 10 years in the Navy before he did an inter-service transfer to the active-duty Air Force.”
“Not many people switch services right in the middle of their career, but he took that risk and he’s able to lean out and get in front,” he said.
Alexander agreed with Teff’s assessment of taking risks, seeking professional development, and taking charge of your career.
“I took chances and didn’t always take the easy way out,” said Alexander. “The most important part of career progression was getting out of the cockpit and moving around.”
“I obtained different assignments to learn command and control, opened up to learn electronic warfare, space systems, and cyber—all three of those things together equate to this new warfare that the United States has to encompass,” he said.
The newly promoted general has a unique background because he retired from active duty prior to joining the Guard.
“He retired after 21 years of active-duty service and later brought out of retirement as an indispensable asset,” said Teff. “From there, he joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard then later transferred to the 110th Wing Battle Creek Air National Guard Base in Michigan.”
“He served as the Air Operations Group commander for the MQ-9s and was tasked with standing up that mission, which was rated the number one unit in 2018,” said Teff.
After the MQ-9 Reaper mission, Alexander headed to the state headquarters.
“He joined the Joint Forces Headquarters assigned to space and cyber missions,” said Teff. “He also helped the Michigan National Guard’s initial response to COVID-19 as the deputy Joint Task Force commander.”
In his new role, Alexander reflects on what it took for him to reach his current rank.
“The only thing we have 100% control over is our attitude and behavior,” he said. “I believe my positive attitude and behavior were attractive qualities which helped induce others to give me their perspectives and knowledge.”
“A positive attitude and behavior also leads to trust … and it can open doors to unknown and known opportunities,” said Alexander.
Sharing knowledge can be fruitful while promoting a climate of inclusion which can develop the diverse strengths, perspectives, and capabilities of Airmen. Sharing that wisdom and being developed professionally and personally helped Alexander achieve his success.
“No one can be successful unless they receive grace and wisdom from others and I am no different,” said Alexander. “Others selflessly gave each of us our first, second, or more chances to improve ourselves so we could have opportunities they did not have.”
“I would not be in this humbling position unless countless others on their own merit gave me their time, vision, resources, experiences, love, and passion to help me grow into what I am today and it all started with learning, listening, and observing others,” he said.
The two general officers share a unique history together which made this event more memorable.
“I am fortunate as almost five years ago today, I promoted JR to colonel,” said Teff. “I am blessed and honored to participate in your ceremony."
With the new rank comes new responsibilities, but Alexander did leave without saying some words of advice.
“As leaders, we cannot forget we are constantly being observed and listened to in the hope that others are learning from us and passing our experiences to the next generation of leaders,” he said.
“I am humbled and blessed to have this opportunity to bring my experiences to the Airmen and Soldiers of the Michigan National Guard and hope we can learn from each other and continue moving forward for the state of Michigan so we can become the best organization in the National Guard,” said Alexander.