PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Attaining the rank of Chief Master Sergeant, the Air Force’s highest enlisted rank, is usually the pinnacle of an Airman’s career, but for Command Chief Master Sgt. Douglas C. Isaacks, a 20-year pararescueman, his career has been a daisy chain of successes leading to his rise to the top in the most-deployed, and only Reserve Rescue wing in the nation.
After joining the Air Force in 1993, Isaacks served as a security forces specialist for five years, then crosstrained meeting and sustaining the skills and abilities of an Air Force pararescueman, considered the most physically challenging careerfield. Pararescuemen are charged with rescuing injured combatants from the battlefield, as well as pilots who eject over isolated territory.
Isaacks met many challenges along the way, but that did not stop him from collecting a slew of accolades while serving - namely, a 2001 Bronze Service Star earned from a combat static-line jump into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, which led to follow-on coalition forces arriving in Western Afghanistan.
Carrying rucksacks weighted with multiple weapons and rescue gear served to condition the veteran pararescueman for the heavy responsibility he would bear as command chief mentoring troops while setting the bar high ensuring their morale, health and welfare was on par with the 920th Rescue Wing’s effectiveness.
Less than a month after being appointed 920th RQW command chief, the sting of what combat can do to a person hit home when a seasoned NCO took his own life from post-traumatic stress - catching the wing off guard, but Chief Isaacks’ strong leadership was just what was needed. The harsh loss quadrupled the size of the corps Isaacks would serve during his tenure because he ensured every wing member’s family was brought into his fold of leadership.
Earlier that summer, the 920th RQW’s annual flight plan portfolio logged two 1,000-mile roundtrips over the vast sea to save two men whose sailboat caught fire and sunk, and a cruise ship passenger who became gravely ill—a trek to Texas to evacuate 235 citizens displaced by the ravages of Hurricane Harvey—and several stints up Oregonian mountains to pick up hikers trapped by weather events—all the while surpassing the intense scrutiny of an inspection and sending multiple personnel out the door to combat.
Checking off these seemingly immortal feats led to multiple accolades and awards for rescue warriors to celebrate, however tears brought on by more tragic news of loss, were shed along the way.
The rescue community received a major blow when 7 Airmen were killed aboard Jolly 51, an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter that crashed in Iraq March 15, 2018. Isaacks fostered resiliency throughout the wing during that difficult time.
Leaving a 20-year storied career behind, Isaacks will hang up his maroon beret and command chief stripes to run his own company and pursue more time enjoying his wife and two boys and getting back to flying on four wheels. The chief picked up the art and action sport of skateboarding again after nearly going pro in school.