Little Rock PAO recognized as one of Air Force’s best

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Charles Rivezzo
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Resting on her desk sits a knight, its knee bent and arms outstretched with an engraved pen laying across its open hands.

The message it exudes is simple yet powerful: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

It’s a fitting reminder for Capt. Jessica Cicchetto in her role as the Chief of Public Affairs for the 19th Airlift Wing and Little Rock Air Force Base.

A role in which she was recently recognized for as one of the Air Force’s best; being named the recipient of the 2021 Capt. Brantley R. Schuldt Outstanding Communication Company Grade Officer of the Year for communication excellence.

“This award is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication of the entire 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs team,” Cicchetto said. “Without each of their contributions and support, this award simply would not be possible. I am thankful and privileged for every day that I get the opportunity to lead an extraordinary team, for the trust and confidence each of them extends to me, and the support they provide me in return.”

As a public affairs officer, Cicchetto serves as the principal communications advisor for LRAFB’s senior leaders, and is responsible for developing and executing communication strategies to build understanding and support for service members and their families.

“We are all proud of Captain Cicchetto and the entire public affairs team,” said Col. Angela Ochoa, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “She has led the team during a very challenging time and absolutely had a hand in all of Team Little Rock’s success. We are lucky to have a leader who pushes her team to new heights and knows how to make her team perform at their very best. She embodies what it means to be a Black Knight.”

Cicchetto said there are many complexities to being a public affairs officer, as no two days are ever the same.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and grey space, so a lot of the time I’m just hoping I am getting it right, and trying my hardest to lead my team to the best of my abilities and advise my senior leaders appropriately,” she said. “So to receive this award is a little surreal – I am still in shock, but truly honored.”

Cicchetto’s Air Force journey isn’t one that would be considered the "norm" for most PAOs; but the art of communication and language, and the subsequent creation of action, have remained the constant in new and different ways.

She began her career in 2006, enlisting to serve as a cryptologic language analyst, where she predominantly supported Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in both tactical and strategic roles.

Her efforts and contributions within the intelligence community showcase a careers worth of achievement – all packed into less than a decade of service.

Accomplishments such as providing actionable intelligence to drive counter-intelligence operations in order to safeguard forward operating bases and processing thousands of audio files to aid combat operations against insurgents in Afghanistan are littered throughout her service record.

In 2014, she received the opportunity to commission through the Scholarship for Outstanding Airmen to ROTC program with Detachment 330, University of Maryland.

“I often reflect on my enlisted time in the intelligence community and am able to take many lessons learned to help guide and inform my decision making as a PAO today,” she said.

For Cicchetto, when looking back on 2021, it would have been easy to pinpoint personal accolades within her field or major initiatives she led on behalf of the installation. But she chose a different route instead, directing the spotlight back onto the efforts of her team.

She said what’s brought her the most joy was watching members of her team grow, overcome challenges and succeed.

“Their teamwork is remarkable – they are always supporting one another to reach the next level, which often leads to their products reaching national, or even international, recognition – it’s truly incredible to witness and be a part of,” Cicchetto said.

The honor of this award, and the investment of others into her 16-year Air Force journey, wasn’t lost on Cicchetto when she reflected on the significance of her achievement.

“An award like this isn’t achieved overnight or alone – there are many leaders, mentors, and loved ones that have pushed me, believed in me and supported me along the way these last 16 years,” she said. “I am grateful to everyone that has invested their time, dedication and love into who I am today.”