NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. --
In 1983 Warner Brothers Pictures released an epic historical drama film based on the story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts called “The Right Stuff.” The title is based on an informal meaning of the essential abilities or qualities, such as self-confidence, dependability, and knowledge, necessary for success in a given field or situation. Although the headline of this story is a play on words, Master Sgt. Jessica Bright, 914th Air Refueling Wing program coordinator for the Development and Training Flight in many ways mirrors that meaning.
A special duty, still officially assigned to the 914th Maintenance Group, she works with the new recruits that enlist into the unit.
“The recruiters will recruit them and assign them to Niagara and I take it from there to get them acclimated to the base and prepare them for basic training,” said Bright. “Everything is geared towards preparation both physically and academically towards Basic Training.”
When working with younger individuals who have no military background or experience it can present challenges.
“I think the greatest challenge I have is helping them understand the ‘why’ in what we do in the Air Force,” said Bright. “At Basic Military Training they are going to be given instructions and expected to move on command. I incorporate that into my training with them and explain why we do what we do and how it all ties into the bigger picture. I am trying to provide them with as much information as I can in a short amount of time.”
In explaining the most rewarding aspect of her job Bright explained, “For me, so far is the day they ship out for BMT. The recruits are filled with emotions; excitement, nervousness, a little anxiety about what they’re about to experience. I sit with them for a good hour before we walk through out-processing and just talk with them on a more personal level. I reassure them and really instill confidence that they are well prepared and ready for this next step. It makes me happy to see their excitement and be that positive focal point for them to have as they are about to leave.”
A native from Newfane, N.Y. she enlisted into the active duty Air Force upon graduating high school in 2002. Her first duty station was at Hurlburt Field, Florida working in maintenance.
Bright joked that it was a tough assignment working near the beach especially coming from N.Y. She spent her entire active-duty tour at Hurlburt in a high tempo assignment in plans and scheduling.
9/11 played a big part in her enlisting into the military. Her mother, an Army intelligence commander and a retired NYS police officer was working on that tragic day and arrived at the scene 45 minutes before the towers collapsed. Her mom spent several months working on search & rescue, then recovery traveling back and forth between Lockport N.Y. and New York City.
Bright said that her mother is in many ways her mentor, the one person that she aspires to be like.
“She always guided me down the path. I followed in a lot of things that she did,” said the Master Sgt. “Often she would be away for days at a time doing her police work. 9/11 impacted everyone, but being that close to the situation that was really tough. Seeing my mom actually there and doing what she did and then joining the Army gave me the inspiration to join. She’s a tough lady. She’s always been a steady focal point and someone I’ve always looked up to.”
Master Sgt. Bright comes from a family that serves. Her grandfather served in the Army during Vietnam. Her husband, who was stationed at Hurlburt Field where they met and later got married, is now a New York State Police Officer. Her brother still serves in the Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Back in 2004 both mother and daughter were deployed at the same time in Southwest Asia. Bright was in Iraq and her mother was in Afghanistan and they were the only, at that time, mother/daughter military members deployed at the same time.
When Bright joined the 914th ARW in 2009, transferring from Duke Field, Fla., she became a First Sergeant for the 914th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. Later in 2019 she held that position for the 914th Maintenance Group and 914th Maintenance Squadron.
When she is not preparing new troops for basic training, she dedicates her time to running a successful business: Batteries + Bulbs.com and opened a brick-and-mortar store in 2016.
“Late 2014 I found out about a program that offered franchise opportunities called ‘Owners with Honors.’ It allows veterans to buy and start a business at about half the cost,” explained Bright.
Like many other businesses, COVID-19 did have an effect, but not in a way she initially thought.
“I lost half of my part-time staff of college and university students when the schools shut down and most students were forced to move back home. Initially we were planning to shut down, but three days into the shutdown we were getting a lot of calls from hospitals and clinics that needed specific batteries that we supplied for medical equipment and no one else in the area was carrying it. So, we opened back up as an essential business,” said Bright.
Not content to just serve her country, run a business, and a family, she continued her education and holds a degree in early childhood education and an undergraduate degree in business management.
Master Sgt. Bright also coaches soccer, baseball and softball.
“Our family is really big into our church and some of the youth programs my three children (two boys and a girl) love participating in,” said Bright.
When not doing all those things, she enjoys taking many leadership courses.
“It’s a juggling act,” explained the Master Sgt. “I’m very good at time management. I really prefer to be busy. If I wasn’t busy, I would be bored.”
She has the respect of her peers and of leadership.
“Master Sgt. Bright epitomizes the attributes and challenges of a successful female Airman. Her enthusiastic personality is so inspiring to all who have had the pleasure to come into contact with her from all aspects of her life,” said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Peters, 914th ARW command chief.
Bright sees herself still serving her country and opening up more stores in the near future. She gives this advice to young Airmen just starting out: “There’s a lot of opportunities that I had no idea about. I would tell a new Airman to really seek and ask about opportunities. There really is not a limit to what you want to do. You just have to find the right people that can help guide you in the right direction.”
When asked what she does to relax, she chuckled and said, “I drive to the base for work and listen to my podcasts. I also exercise pretty regularly.”