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Difficult job? Try parking a fighter jet below deck on an aircraft carrier

In World
June 10, 2024

She’s 24, a graduate of Bakersfield High School’s class of 2019. And she lives and works aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed, nuclear-powered supercarrier in the North Pacific.

Her job title is a mouthful, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) 3rd Class Jaquelyn Janee Jacobs. Luckily, it shortens to ABH3 Jacobs.

“I move aircraft, so I do what you would see someone do at an airport. I do that, but in a hangar bay,” Jacobs said in a text interview via Navy communications.

“There’s less space than the flight deck, so it’s intense … It’s very intense trying to move very big aircraft in a small space.”

And no one wants to be responsible for a fender bender while moving a $65 million Super Hornet.

“Moving jets is intimidating,” she said. “Looking at a jet when it’s standing still, you’re like, that’s pretty cool. But standing in front of it when it’s moving, your adrenaline is going. This thing is huge and I have to move it and I have to put it somewhere safely.”

But she does it every day. And when she’s done, she tucks the planes into bed until they’re called upon to fly again.

Currently, she’s the only petty officer 3rd class in the hangar bay — and she’s the only female hangar bay petty officer. All others, she said, are 2nd class and male.

“ABs are very prideful,” Jacobs said. “When it comes to being a bay PO, you really need to know what you’re doing because people will call you out on it. So me being a 3rd class and the only female 3rd class at the moment … they like to test me on my knowledge.

“I deal with a lot of that, but they teach me a lot too. They treat me like they treat anybody else. I get the same respect as a 2nd class doing the job.”

Back in Bakersfield, Jacobs’ mom, LaSonia Gilmore, misses her daughter. But she’s also proud of her.

And she’s not surprised her youngest daughter is excelling.

“She was involved in just about everything in high school,” Gilmore said. “She was a cheerleader, she was in Mock Trial, she was junior- and senior-class president and she was involved in student council.

“My daughter, she’s a great leader.”

When she’s out on deployment, the communication with her family back home becomes scant or silent.

But other times, Jacobs and her mother talk almost every other day.

“When she’s out around the world, I don’t get to talk to her very often,” said her sister, Jessica Jacobs.

She knows her younger sister is under a lot of pressure, but she says Janee — the family calls her sister by her middle name — “is not afraid to stand up for herself in any way.

“I’m extremely proud of her. I can’t even put it into words,” Jessica said. “When she gets out of the Navy, she can go anywhere she wants.”

In fact, ABH3 Jacobs expects to leave the Navy in April 2025. Then she plans to go to school to become an X-ray technician.

“I joined the Navy when I was 20. I’m 24 now and I’ll be 25 when I get out,” she said. “In those years I’ve learned a lot about myself, as far as what I can push myself through.”

The way she thinks about life has changed. Sure, there have been struggles, there have been ups and downs.

“I would say that the Navy put me in a different mindset of priorities … It’s helped me know what I’m capable of learning. Nothing’s out of reach.”

She needed her Navy experience to help her realize that higher education was a privilege.

“Coming here put a lot of things into perspective when it comes to the civilian side,” she said.

Her advice to young people?

“There’s a bigger world outside of Bakersfield, even outside of California, even outside of the states … so if you get the chance to do something, do it.”

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