By Army Staff Sgt. David Bolton
133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 20, 2015 – For the fourth time in her 15-year military career, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Fulkerson took the oath to faithfully defend the Constitution of the United States. But it was the first time that she raised her right hand for a four-star general.
Fulkerson, assigned to the Kentucky National Guard’s 223rd Military Police Company, raised her right hand as Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, presided over the April 18 re-enlistment ceremony at the “Thunder Over Louisville” air show held here.
“As a veteran, I’m proud to wear this uniform,” Fulkerson said. “That’s why I re-enlisted.”
Fulkerson’s decade-and-a-half of service to her country includes three deployments: one in Bosnia and two in Iraq. She is decorated with the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars and the Army Commendation Medal with the “V” device for valor.
Unique Leadership Experience
“She has a lot of experience,” the 223rd MP Company’s commander, Army Capt. Jacob Lee, said of Fulkerson. “That gives her the ability to be very calm in her decision-making. A lot of the things we do, it’s not her first go-around, so she doesn’t hesitate to make a decision in the fog of war.”
Comrades who have deployed with Fulkerson say she is the consummate professional.
“She’s a really good noncommissioned officer, she’s always done what she supposed to do and she has great personality,” said Army Master Sgt. Mark Meunier, operations noncommissioned officer with the 617th MP Company. “She uses her experience from her civilian job and applies it to the military side. That’s a big bonus she has.”
As an MP, Fulkerson and her troops are trained on a number of Army manuals and tasks to include infantry and explosive ordnance disposal. In her duties as a platoon sergeant, Fulkerson helps monitor and maintain access areas to military compounds, as well as ensure her soldiers are taken care of.
“We can do entry control points, road security, as well as internal security where we patrol the gates,” Fulkerson said. “We’re multi-purpose when it comes down to it. If it’s a task, we’ll figure out how to do it because when you’re deployed you have to do everything.”
Like a ‘Mom’ to Soldiers
As a testament to her diligence in looking out for those in her platoon, Fulkerson was given the title of "Mom" during her last deployment in 2011.
"I had a 15-PAX van with ‘soccer mom’ written on the back of it in the dust,” she said. “One of my guys drew all the soldiers in our group in the back window. I give my guys anything I can give them. I guess that’s why they call me ‘Mom.’"
As a leader, Fulkerson said she strives to impart the lessons she has learned coming up through the ranks to her soldiers.
“Respect your elders -- they know what they’re talking about,” she said. “Watch the older guys, learn what they’re doing and do it. The hard times, the horrible times, are the things that glue you together. Embrace it.”
Fulkerson not only leads and guides her soldiers on the battlefield, but she also mentors the students in her high school mathematics class at Warren East High School where she is known as "Ms. Fulkerson."
“The common question everybody asks every year is, ‘Have you ever killed anyone?’” Fulkerson said. “I teach them to not do that to veterans because it’s wrong. It’s a respect issue.”
Back on Duty
As the re-enlistment ceremony concluded, Fulkerson was congratulated by 198th MP Battalion commander, Army Maj. Timothy Starke -- a gesture that hit home with her.
“The thing that really made a difference to us is when Maj. Starke came up and congratulated us,” Fulkerson said. “That’s the biggest connection for us because he knows our names. To me, that brings out the family side of the Guard. It’s what keeps us coming back.”
With the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony at an end, Fulkerson walked down the Second Street Bridge, back into the swarming Thunder crowd of roughly 500,000. Her mission? To ensure the safety of her soldiers and attendees at the air show.