A lot has changed in 19-year-old Jacqueline Trafton’s life since she was named Miss Clovis last February.
Since then she’s enlisted in the Air Force’s Air National Guard, attended basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and graduated from tech school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
She only recently came back to Clovis January 2020. The Miss Clovis winner currently serves the 144th Fighter Wing based in Fresno’s Air National Guard Base, where she is responsible for getting F-15 Fighter Jets into the air.
So how did Trafton go from winning Miss Clovis to enlisting in the Air Force and working with some of the fastest aircraft in the world, all in the same year?
The Roundup spoke to her to find out.
Trafton, whose family has a long tradition of serving in the military, said she chose to join the Air Force because she wanted to challenge herself to do something that she previously believed she could not.
“If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would be in the Air Force I would have thought you were crazy for telling me that,” Trafton said. “I would support the people in the military but I never thought I could do that myself. Then I built up enough courage and enough bravery and I did it.”
She added that joining the Air Guard gave her the opportunity to protect her community.
“The reason I picked the Air Guard was over going active duty for the Air Force is we have an Air Guard wing here in Fresno. What I love about that is I’m serving home,” she said.
Trafton said she avoided researching what basic training would be like, as she wanted to experience it purely from her own perspective.
“I didn’t want to watch any videos or read anything about it because I didn’t want to think of anything as being scary or hard. I wanted to experience it for myself. It was challenging but when you are disconnected from not having your phone and not seeing your family and just being you when the pressure is there, you can do anything,” she said.
The most challenging part of her basic military training was “beast week,” a training exercise designed to teach recruits how to survive while deployed.
“There’s a week of training in the Air Force, it’s called beast week. It’s a mock deployed environment and you stay in tents and you are always wearing your vest and your helmet. You are doing these things that prepare you for a deployed environment. That’s constant pressure. You are learning how to shoot, how to crawl, how to do night raids,” Trafton said.
Another challenge Trafton overcame was homesickness.
“You receive letters every once and awhile so seeing messages from my family saying how they are proud of me – it really made me miss home but I knew I was there for the right reasons and it just made me more motivated and more proud that I was there,” she said.
After graduating from basic training in October and from tech school in January, Trafton was finally set to return home. She said coming back was as overwhelming as it was heartwarming.
“I had a very warm welcoming at the airport from different people from all over my life, from my pageant platform to school to my family and friends,” Trafton said of the welcome party that greeted her when she returned to her hometown. “That warm welcoming was very overwhelming but I feel so loved.”
She said she loves serving her country and her community through working with the 144th Fighter Wing. That’s not to mention the excitement she feels when assisting F-15s into the air.
“Its exhilarating. I grew up with (F-15s) flying over and not really knowing that we had an Air Guard wing here,” Trafton said. “Being involved in the process of getting them in the air and getting the air crew ready and watching them take off is very rewarding and it warms my heart that I am protecting the people of Clovis and the Central Valley.”
Trafton continues to serve her community through the Miss America organization when she’s not on duty. She mentors young girls in the Miss America organization’s Princess Program.
She said her experience with the Air force and as Miss Clovis places her in a unique position to inspire others in her community.
“Now that I’m back in Clovis, I am still continuing my appearances on my platform. I still want to be as involved as I can,” Trafton said. “I’m bringing a different approach to the public as being a role model to girls my age, younger or older, that you don’t have to fit that mold of being that one person. You can be as diverse as you want to be. You can get muddy at boot camp being in the military or you can put on a crown and a dress. There’s so many things you can be.”
Trafton said she is not entirely sure what the future has in store, but plans on continuing to serve her home as best she can through the Air Force.