Top Gun and Commander of the MBAF Base
by Melissa LaScaleia
Tucked away in the Market Common, intersecting Hendrick Avenue, is Jenkins Alley, so named after Brigadier General James J. Jenkins, who logged more than 3,100 hours flying with the United States Air Force. Little information can be found about James Jenkins early life, but we do know that he was a graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly called Virginia Tech) in 1964, with a bachelor of science degree in animal science. In 1967, he received a master’s degree in animal physiology, from West Virginia University.
James began his military career in college through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. After completing his master’s degree, he entered the United States Air Force.
During his impressive military career, he distinguished himself with the following awards: Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters; Vietnam Service Medal with three service stars; Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
James excelled in rank steadily; he was promoted from Captain in 1969, to Major in 1973, to Lieutenant Colonel in 1978, to Colonel in 1983, ending with the appointment of Brigadier General in 1992, before retiring in 1997.
James was stationed in South Vietnam with the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, during the Vietnam War in 1969. He was a student at the Royal College of Air Warfare, in Cranwell, England, as well as a pilot and flight commander of the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. He flew 198 combat missions over Southeast Asia. In 1981, he earned his first appointment as commander, over the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, at Bittburg Air Base, in West Germany. Throughout his career, he flew F-102, F-106, F-4, F-15, A-10 and F-16 aircrafts. His skill earned him the accolade of F-106 Category Top Gun.
From 1985-1987, he was appointed commander, Air Forces Iceland, at Keflavik Naval Air Station, in Iceland. His following appointment was as vice commander of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. Then, he was appointed commander. He served in those positions for three years, from 1987-1990.
He went on to serve at other bases— as base commander in South Korea, deputy director of operations in Washington, D.C., and the deputy chief of staff for plans and operations.
His last assignment was as director of logistics, Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces, at Hickam Air Force Base, in Hawaii, where he was responsible for the maintenance and support of fighter and support aircraft and management of equipment and supplies valued at more than $3.3 billion. He was also responsible for the allocation and maintenance of vehicles and war reserve equipment valued at over $350 million.