By Kerry McGinley
When Robert Jackson was a kid, he didn’t have a clear vision of a future a career of service. Now director of Strategic Airforce Capture for PAE, he sees how his first career in the Air Force prepared him for his new role at PAE.
“What PAE does, the heart of what we’re all about is designing world-class mission and support solutions for those same customers,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s not just ‘PAE won this contract and whoop-de-do for us,’ but also, I get to have an opportunity to deliver world-class mission support to that same team of folks I think so highly of.”
Jackson took a circuitous career route through 26 years in the Air Force to learn the skills he draws on now for success at PAE.
When he graduated in 1993 from the United States Air Force Academy, the country was in the midst of the post-Cold War drawdown. For the first time in the academy’s history, there weren’t enough pilot slots for the graduates. A mentor encouraged Jackson to consider the leadership and professional challenges of aircraft maintenance – a pivotal career choice that would eventually lead him to PAE.
“This became my passion,” he said. “I just kind of broadened out into other logistics disciplines and really worked to make myself a master logistician. Not just air craft maintenance, but supply chain and distribution and acquisition – all those ingredients that work together that make the mission happen.”
Over the course of his Air Force tenure, Jackson earned his MBA in aerospace from the University of Tennessee. He earned master black belt rating in Lean Six Sigma and additional certifications and experience in acquisitions, supply chain management, and other educational opportunities.
Jackson retired in April 2019 as a colonel. He learned about career opportunities at PAE from Chris Holden, vice president of Business Development, and Craig Franklin, Air Force client executive and retired major general of the Air Force.
Franklin, also an Air Force Academy alum, said that in addition to Jackson’s Air service background, his expertise in continuous improvement was another major professional advantage.
“When I first met Rob, I immediately knew he was a leader who could help PAE grow to meet the future needs of our U.S. Air Force,” Franklin said. “His resume was full of leadership accomplishments in aircraft maintenance and logistics that I knew would translate into industry very well. I was especially impressed that Rob was already a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and certified Lean Six Sigma Sensei. PAE achieves great efficiencies for our customers through our Continuous Improvement program and Lean Six Sigma is one of the main tools we use to do that.”
It’s the culmination of a career focused on always doing better, Jackson said.
“That’s what I worked over 26-plus years to develop,” Jackson said. “The Air Force raised me, gave me all these great educational and training opportunities. I have nothing but love for the Air Force.”
Since he began working for PAE in August, he’s developed a deep appreciation for his colleagues and the work of PAE, he said.
“The caliber of people here at PAE – it’s clear that they’re good at their jobs and they’re good people,” Jackson said. “They’re good. They know they’re stuff. They’re out there making stuff happen every day.”