Seneca Air Force JROTC’s Cadet of the Year reflects on life and his achievement.
Tom Jeansson proves that you don’t have to be loud to be a leader.
You don’t always have to be the loudest in the room to make for the best leader. Sometimes, it’s best to lead by example.
At least that’s how it works with Seneca’s Cadet of the Year, Tom Jeansson.
“His call sign is Mr. Wonderful because he never smiled,” says Major Sean Hoggs, Seneca’s Senior Aerospace Instructor and someone whom Jeansson credits for helping him become the superior cadet he is today. “He was so quiet.”
What does it mean to be Seneca’s Cadet of the Year? It means out of Seneca’s 127 members of the Air Force JROTC, Jeansson was the best.
“Just through maturation and being involved in the program he completely blossomed, and he’s earned the right to be the Core Commander for Fall of 2017,” said Hoggs.
Being the core commander basically means he will be in charge of the day-to-day operations on the cadet level.
“He’s basically going to be in charge of the entire program,” said Hoggs. “Nobody deserves this more than Tom.”
“It’s an honor,” the soft-spoken Jeansson, who stands at a towering 6 feet 5 inches tall, said of his accomplishment. “There were a lot of great cadets in the core this year.”
Jeansson comes from a family that was always involved in the military. Jeansson’s father, a Swedish immigrant, was in the Swedish Army before he moved to the United States.
“He’s always been an inspiration,” Jeansson said of his dad. “He’s always on time and he’s been a big influence on work ethic [and] working hard for everything you do because he kind of built himself from the ground up. He didn’t start off where he is now.”
Jeansson also credits Seneca’s Aerospace Instructor John Brooks and the Boy Scouts for making him the person he is today.
“The thing about [Boy] Scouts is it teaches you when stuff goes wrong how do you react?” Jeansson explained. “How do you change and adapt to what just happened? How do you work as a team? Scouts is really the thing that really pointed me to do JROTC in the first place.”
Need an example?
When Jeansson was hiking at the Boy Scouts’ Philmont High Adventure Base in New Mexico with his troop, the group started to run out of drinking water.
“At our normal speed we should have arrived at right about 5:30, but then as we were hiking we started to lose water and then it comes to like 5:15, we keep hiking, 5:30 losing more water, 5:45 now we’re down to like a half a liter each, so you kind of have to make that decision. Do we stop? Do we keep going? What do the guys think? How do we take this decision? So we decided to just keep going. It can’t be that far. And we made it there by 6:15, 6:30,” he said.
But after all this recognition (Jeansson was also awarded the Superior Performance Ribbon), what has Jeansson learned the most from JROTC?
“With JROTC you have people coming from everywhere so you have all sorts of people from different towns, different backgrounds, different demographics, and I feel like it’s taught me how to take everyone’s ideas and everyone’s opinions and include them in the conversation or when you’re on a team you have to figure out what everyone’s skills are and it’s taught me how to figure stuff like that out,” he answered.
After high school, Jeansson, who is about to go into his senior year, plans to go to college for some type of engineering — probably mechanical engineering. Although Jeansson is a three-sport athlete at Seneca who plays soccer, basketball and tennis (he was also on the swim team freshman year), Jeansson’s main priority isn’t to play sports in college. It’s to learn as much as he can.
“It’s so competitive at the top level, and I’d rather focus on an education rather than focus on playing sports,” he said. “I could probably play soccer at a smaller D3 school I’m sure, but I’d rather go to a larger school for a good education.”
After college, Jeansson wants to go into the Air Force. He wants to be a pilot.
“When [I was] younger [my family would] always fly to Sweden because that’s where my dad is from. I loved it ever since,” he said. “Just flying in the air and travelling long distances and stuff like that. That’s not normal for a lot of people because they don’t like to take long flights and be in the air like that in such a small area. But I always loved that. Experiences like that are what made me interested in airplanes.”
Still, his decision to pursue a spot in the Air Force wasn’t taken lightly.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s a commitment. Especially if I choose to do the college route…But I’d be able to handle it, and it’s the best decision for me.”