Southeast Missouri State University alumnus and U.S. Air Force Col. Jeffrey Pierce has enjoyed a stellar military career that all took flight as an Air Force ROTC cadet at Southeast.
He will return to his stomping grounds Memorial Day weekend and serve as the guest speaker at the Sikeston (Missouri) Memorial Day Service at 10:30 a.m. May 29 at the Sikeston Veterans Park.
Raised on a farm near Essex, Missouri, Pierce is the commander of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Northeast Region, based at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. His area of responsibility covers 16 states and the region serves as the intermediate command authority providing oversight and staff policy to 37 detachments covering 387 universities, 220 airmen and over 3,500 cadets. He oversees recruitment, professional fitness and education training, manages $23 million in scholarships and directs logistical and personnel requirements for successful operations. He commissions 20 percent of the 4,000 officers entering the Air Force each year.
“It is a great job, allowing me to help train people to keep our Air Force the best in the world,” Pierce said.
Pierce graduated from Southeast in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in management, is an alumni member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and was a member of the University’s Air Force ROTC program, earning his officer’s commission.
“I chose Southeast primarily because it was close to home and several of my friends from Richland High School also attended Southeast,” he said. “Southeast contributed a great deal to my personal and professional development, enabling me to learn and mature while I was there.”
Along with his involvement in Air Force ROTC and Greek Life, Pierce said he enjoyed being a student in Southeast’s Harrison College of Business.
“These experiences, along with working part-time jobs, developed my sense of drive, ability to prioritize and be a productive member of society,” he said.
Since completing pilot training in 1992, he has served in numerous operational, command and staff positions at the squadron, wing and headquarters levels.
“I had always been interested in the military and decided I wanted to fly airplanes,” Pierce said. “Having flown for many years, it was a great choice that I would pick again.”
He earned a Master of Science in aviation operations from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1996 and was a distinguished graduate in 1997 from Squadron Officer School. In 2004, he earned a Master of Arts in military operational art and was a distinguished graduate from Air Command and Staff College. He earned a Master of Science in joint campaign planning and strategy from National Defense University in 2012.
Prior to his current assignment, he was vice commander of the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, overseeing 1,800 airmen operating air mobility throughout the Pacific region. He has served on staff assignments for the Joint Staff and Air Staff at the Pentagon. Additionally, Pierce is a command pilot with over 4,300 hours in C-17, C-141, T-38 and T-37 aircraft.
“I have flown four different airplanes, visited every continent, led small and large organizations, participated in numerous military operations, got to work on a Presidential Inauguration and at the Pentagon,” Pierce said.
“I would highly recommend the U.S. Air Force to Southeast students as an opportunity to serve the nation while also pursuing a great career,” he said.
Pierce has received numerous awards, including the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Humanitarian Service Medal.
He also has served in several overseas deployments including Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. His relief operations include tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, flood and conflict relief in Japan, Pakistan, Georgia, East Timor, Haiti, Indonesia, Philippines, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Turkey.
Pierce has been married to his wife Ellen for more than 25 years and has a son and daughter. His hobbies include reading, hiking, watching sports and assisting in volunteer activities.
In the event of inclement weather, the Memorial Day service will be held at the First Christian Church at 1006 N. Main St. in Sikeston, Missouri.