Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Jeffries, 39, has assumed command of Clear Air Station, a radar tracking installation that's part of the 13th Space Warning Squadron, which is part of the 21st Space Wing in central Alaska.
Before marriage led her to take her husband's name, Fairview Heights native Jeffries was known as Jennifer Schutzenhofer, the valedictorian of the Althoff Catholic High School Class of 1992, and a 1996 graduate of Notre Dame University, in South Bend, Ind.
Jeffries, the oldest of six children, attributed her academic success and career achievements to lessons she learned from her parents, Leo and Susanne Schutzenhofer, who still reside in Fairview Heights.
"Both my parents are products of the Depression, a little bit," Jeffries said. "They always had a hardworking work ethic that they kind of passed along, and making the most of what you have. They had high expectations, and I guess we tried to meet them."
Jeffries always considered it important to excel at her studies, according to her father, Leo Schutzenhofer.
"Ever since she was a little girl, she always wanted to be at the top," he said. "That was a built-in instinct in her. It's hereditary from her mother."
Before attending Notre Dame on an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, Jeffries had dreamed of a career as a physician.
She decided to make a career in the military because "I enjoyed the service once I was in," she said. "I needed to pay for my college, and ended up enjoying it."
Clear AFS is nearly 80 miles southwest of Fairbanks, Alaska and 100 miles northeast of Mount McKinley. Clear is overseen by the 21st Space Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base, near Colorado Springs, Colo.
Clear AFS is co-operated by a unit of the Alaska Air National Guard. Its main mission is to provide early detection and warning of intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and then send those data to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, located in a nuclear blast-proof bunker under a mountain southwest of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Clear AFS's secondary mission is to track orbiting space vehicles and send that information to the Air Force Space Command.
Jeffries began her one-year remote assignment in early June. She left her son Tucker, 6, and daughter Abby, 3, in the care of her husband, Air Force Lt. Col. Blake Jefferies, who remains stationed at Peterson.