The family business: Father and son support each other while serving together at Incirlik

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jonathan Lovelady
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Master Sgt. Clifford Jackson III and Airman 1st Class Clifford Jackson IV share a bond deeper than wingmen or brothers-in-arms; they are father and son who also serve together at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. 

Sergeant Jackson is the 39th Air Base Wing command section superintendent and the functional manager for all of the administrative Airmen on base. Airman Jackson is a materiel management technician assigned to the 39th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

While they work in different units, being stationed together has benefitted both Jacksons as they are able provide each other with mentorship, motivation and support.


For Airman Jackson, having access to his father softens the blow of being away from most of the family. 

“I miss my mom and my three little brothers,” Airman Jackson said. “Besides that, I don’t really have a place I call home. Wherever dad’s at or wherever they’re at is home to me.”

For Sergeant Jackson, that sense of home and family paid off almost immediately after his son arrived at Incirlik AB. Airman Jackson’s new assignment enabled him to literally be there for his father during one of the most difficult times in his life.

“I turned 40 on February 14, 2022, and my son landed on February 16,” Sergeant Jackson recalled. “On February 18, I got a phone call saying that my dad passed. I don’t think they can prepare you for that – I’m still processing it – but his mom called him after she notified me.”

Sergeant Jackson shared how his leadership team checked on him and offered support from the chaplain and first sergeant, but he asked for his privacy. Then he received an unprompted visit from his son.

“I think he came over to my house at like 4:30 in the morning and I really didn’t want to see anybody,” Sergeant Jackson said. “I just wanted to be alone, but my son came over and it was exactly what I needed. I’m at a remote location, doing a one-year tour, and then I have my own son come over and say ‘I got you, what do you need?’ I think he did something simple like [set up my streaming service] so I could watch some movies. It was the perfect gesture.”

Airman Jackson’s simple act of kindness and mere presence helped his father tremendously. He said they didn’t do too much talking that morning, but the fact that they were there for each other meant the world.  

“I realized all he really needed was someone to sit down, talk to him and get his mind off of what happened,” Airman Jackson said.    


Both Sergeant and Airman Jackson described the importance of finding balance in their relationship during their time at Incirlik AB. They prioritize spending time together, while also allowing Airman Jackson to branch out on his own and grow. When he’s not spending time with his father, Airman Jackson enjoys gaming, working out daily and studying for his degree.

“It’s cool because we get to hang out once in a while, but we still have our own space,” Airman Jackson said. “I have the dorms and he has his house. I’ve got a key to his place so I’ll go visit him, and he comes to see me at the dorms.”

Sergeant Jackson explained how scheduling time together at least once a week helps maintain the balance and adds consistency.

“Every Saturday night, we’ll order some pizza and wings and watch a movie,” Sergeant Jackson said. “We’ll also take that time to do a little mentoring, share some experiences in the military and discuss how his week went.”

Sergeant Jackson takes great pride in being able to mentor his son while they are both serving together. He shared that the first piece of military advice he gave Airman Jackson was the value of mentorship and planning.

“A good mentor is one of the best tools for finding success in the military,” he said. “Also, work your plan. When I came in, I didn’t have a plan. I just joined and I knew I was leaving home and I wanted to see the world. Here I am 22 years later and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I see the new generation coming in and they have a plan, and they’re executing it very well.”


Sergeant Jackson confessed that his 22-year Air Force career, which included three specialty changes and multiple deployments, had left him tired, sore and ready to retire. He spent his first six years as a weapons loader for F-16 aircraft before retraining into the administration career field. He also served as an Air Force recruiter for four years before returning to administration. After years of serving in one-deep positions, he detailed how having his son at Incirlik AB has rejuvenated his passion for service.   

“I haven’t really had any Airmen to mentor or supervise for a while,” Sergeant Jackson recalled. “It almost felt like I had lost some of my purpose in the military. I wasn’t training my replacement or training the future, then somebody told me, ‘Man, your son is here.’ I realized I get to mentor my own son and that’s awesome! Now I consider this year in Turkey a chance to pass on all of my knowledge and give this man the do’s and don’ts of a successful Air Force career.”

Airman Jackson expressed gratitude for his father’s enthusiasm and discussed how Sergeant Jackson has been preparing him for military success his entire life by setting a strong example and sharing his wisdom.  

“I always wanted to do what he did,” Airman Jackson said. “I’ve always looked up to him as my hero, mentor and inspiration. I don’t mind being like him, I don’t mind working hard either, so I thought ‘I’m going to join the military.’”

Airman Jackson added that before joining the military he often “freaked out” when thinking too much about his future and his father’s guidance helped him overcome the issue.

“He told me to focus on one day at a time,” Airman Jackson said. “‘Don’t focus on tomorrow or the day after, just focus on today and you’ll be just fine.’ I still do that today only now I don’t just focus on one day at a time, I focus on one thing at a time and it helps.”


It was only natural that Airman Jackson decided to join the Air Force. Aside from him and his father, the Jackson family has a long history of military service. Clifford Jackson Sr. served in the U.S. Army during WWII. His son Clifford Jackson Jr. (Sergeant Jackson’s father) served for six years in the Army with the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I’m going to do 20 years,” Airman Jackson said. “I was born into this military world. I’ve seen a lot of people in uniform, and I’m used to the military. I’m used to the yelling, and I’m used to following orders.”

Sergeant Jackson said his son demonstrated leadership traits like integrity from a young age, which made him a perfect fit for the military. He opined that growing up with a young military father who ran their home similar to his workplace influenced and developed these traits.

“This is the only life he’s ever known,” he said. “Airman Jackson was a very quiet kid, he kept to himself, he stayed in his own little world and he did as he was told. But there are moments I remember when he thought I wasn’t around. I would sneak around and hear him leading his brothers, telling them what to do and what not to do, or just helping them out. He stepped up to the plate and assumed his responsibilities as big brother number one.”

He continued to praise his son by sharing two of his proudest moments as a father.

“I was a very young father; he was actually born while I was in tech school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas,” Sergeant Jackson said. “The first time I laid eyes on him was when I got off the airplane in Charlotte, North Carolina. Back then, the families could still go back to the gate, and my wife was standing there holding him. That was Thanksgiving in 2000. My proudest moment was seeing my son, my own flesh and blood, for the first time.

“As far as the military, it was the graduation moment where you have to go down to the formation and tap out the new Airmen,” he continued. “The wife wanted to make sure I was the first one to get down there. He was very anxious or nervous, he didn’t think I was going to tap him out. It was a good moment to have your son follow you into this fraternity, this family business.”


Every strong team needs a star, and the star of the Jackson family is Sergeant Jackson’s wife Tierra N. Jackson. Both Sergeant and Airman Jackson credit her strength and support as the key to their collective success. They explained how she keeps things running smoothly back home, which allows her son and husband to serve overseas.

“She’s the heart of our family,” Sergeant Jackson explained. “As far as the rest of us, we’re warriors, soldiers in the military. I have no idea where we’d be if we didn’t have her in our life. She keeps us on the straight path. I was ready to tap out and retire; I’m tired and I’m in pain and this Air Force is moving on to the next generation. I’m glad she told me to ride it out just a little bit longer because I would have missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve with my son.”

While Tierra very much supports and understands that military service requires time away from home, Sergeant Jackson said having her son and husband gone at the same time made things a bit different at first.

“She wasn’t too happy about me doing back-to-back assignments away (a deployment followed by his short tour at Incirlik AB), but it eased her heart majorly to know that we were coming over here together,” Sergeant Jackson explained. “She’s used to the lifestyle, but it’s different when it’s your first born baby, especially for the mom. But knowing that I’ll be here, she had no worries.”

Airman Jackson echoed his father’s sentiment, pointing out the importance of Tierra’s love and support.

“I tell her everything because I’m a mama’s boy and I’m cool with that,” he said. “Mom is the most loving, caring emotional type in the family. She’s the voice of reason. There have been a couple of times before I got here where I just wanted to give up. I thought I just wanted to get through these six years on my contract, get out and try to find something else to do. Then I decided to talk to my mom about it, listen to her and see what she said. I went for a walk, thought about things and decided I’m not going to give up.”

In addition to being the matriarch of the Jackson family, Tierra has a career of her own. She works at the Airman & Family Readiness Center at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Additionally, she was recognized as the Armed Forces Insurance 2022 Military Spouse of the Year for Moody AFB and a top-three finalist at the Air Force level.


The Jackson family tradition of military service is in good hands, according to Sergeant Jackson. He’s proud of his son’s military service and said he cannot wait to see how his career progresses. Additionally, his second eldest son is scheduled to join the U.S. Space Force in November, 2022, to work in cyber transport systems. Airman Jackson plans on taking trips around Turkey with his father during their time at Incirlik AB, then he will move back to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

As for Sergeant Jackson, he plans to retire and accomplish something he couldn’t before due to his military service. His father retired shortly before he passed and was waiting for Sergeant Jackson to follow suit so they could spend more time together.

“I told him I was on my way, but I wanted to do this assignment with my son,” Sergeant Jackson recalled. “We had these plans to go play golf all over the world and do all the things we couldn’t do because we started working so young and had to take care of our families. It sucks that he won’t be there when I retire, but I have Airman Jackson and his three brothers. Everything I planned to do with my dad, I’m going to do with my sons.”