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Jeannie Adams Transcript.pdf

Jeannie Adams, Sergeant, Air Force

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” describes the life of Sergeant Jeannie Adams. As a teen, her infatuation with the Air Force was ignited by spending summers with her uncle and aunt at Fairchild Air Force Base. Yet, her life-long enthusiasm for the military, be it active duty, reserves, or volunteer work for veterans, never waned.

Born in Canton Mississippi, she was infused was the idea of giving from an early age. Her African-American grandfather who owned many acres of land never stinted on helping a person rise up. Her grandparents earned respect from Blacks and White alike. When she was about nine, she moved to Hyde Park, Chicago. She and her brother enjoyed a pleasant life there. Her mother and her stepfather were reliably employed, their apartment was attractive, and the neighborhood friendly. She attended Kozminski Grammar School and Hyde Park High School, which were both racially integrated schools. She appreciates having had the illustrious Timuel Black as her history teacher. Jeannie did not experience racism in her day-to-day life in Chicago though she was taken aback by Jim Crowe laws during her visits to the South. In school, Jeanne gravitated to subjects like business and even held a part-time job in the school administration. She also learned agency early on, having successfully petitioned to continue to study Hyde Park High School.

Her summer visits to family in the Air Force exposed her smart looking men in uniforms and a way of life which resonated deeply. In spite of her uncle’s advice to first obtain a degree so that she could become a commissioned officer, Jeanne left college to enlist in the Air Force. Since she was skinny and shy, her parents were apprehensive.

In 1965, she took her first plane ride to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for basic training. After the initial homesickness, she thoroughly enjoyed it. Boot camp instilled respect for others, order, and discipline. Weighing only 100 pounds, she had no fear of finding her name on the “Pork Pig List.”  Her next step was to train at the Medical Corps at Gunter Air Force Base, near Montgomery, Alabama. The simulation of combat events such as carrying a ‘wounded patient’ through a ‘minefield’ and over a six-foot wall was intense but necessary. In spite of Jeannie’s wish to see the world, she found herself as a member of the permanent party at Maxwell Air Force Base, also near Montgomery, Alabama. She began to work in Intensive Care and Surgery largely with patients, who were wounded in the Vietnam War. Indeed, her offer to ship out to Vietnam was declined. Socially, she was part of a racially integrated group of men and women from Maxwell, who were both serious and fun loving.  They would picnic together and frequent Black clubs in Montgomery. The integrated base was surrounded by a society permeated by racism. Burning crosses were thrown over the fence. Racial slurs were sometimes hurled at Jeannie and her buddies when spotted in Montgomery. When the National Guard was sent to the capitol to quell the racial tension, they wore their civilian clothes and linked arms at the capitol demonstrating that friendship between humans of different colors is possible. 

She met the man who became her husband at Maxwell AFB, John Q. Adams. He was shipped to Thailand for thirteen months. After John returned, the couple required the permission of the base commander to get married and the wedding took place near the base. They then moved to Clinton Sherman Air Force Base, near Oklahoma for his final assignment. Since there was no assignment for Jeannie, she reluctantly left active duty.  She found work in the Maternity Ward in the Oklahoma General Hospital. After John’s second tour was completed, the couple moved to Chicago in 1968. He pursued a career in Media. Jeannie’s ambition of a medical career came to an end, after a tour of a VA facility. Shortly later, she was hired by Northern Trust Company as receptionist/typist in human resources. Due to her high aptitude tests, it was expected that she would work her way up. In 1974, she attended the company’s management training program while studying at DePaul University. She did this in addition to running their home, raising their daughter, and volunteering in her community.

Jeannie joined the Air Force Reserves 928th Tactical Airlift Squadron based at O’Hare Airport in 1986. During her time with the reserves, she worked in administration and acquired new skills, including her marksmanship certificates for the M-16 and the revolver. Jeannie’s wish for an overseas military assignment finally materialized in 1989. She received orders to go to Howard Air Force Base in Panama. She and another woman carried out administrative tasks at an office in the hangar. The base’s location in the jungle was stimulating where one could see exotic sights like monkeys swinging in trees. Before Thanksgiving, Jeannie and twelve other reservists were charged to bring supplies from Panama to Ecuador. She relishes the memory of her “Thanksgiving family” who enjoyed a holiday meal at a restaurant in Quito. Travel was also part of her civilian job. As a personal trust administrator at Northern Trust, she was sent to Israel on behalf of clients who left bequests to institutions there. Her military credentials impressed soldiers whom she met on IDF [Israel Defense Forces] bases. 

Although Jeannie was discharged from the Air Force Reserves in 1996, her life continues to be one of service, inspired by her Christian beliefs. She volunteers in several organizations and particularly supports National Women Veterans United Veterans, where female veterans help other female veterans in times of distress. She encourages friends and family to also participate in civic life through volunteering and philanthropy.  Having participated in Operation HerStory, she publicly supports the organization’s efforts to honor veterans by taking them to the memorials in Washington, DC.