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Mother-daughter team ready for deployment with South Dakota Air National Guard

As the South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing prepares for deployment, two Lennox women prepare to make history as the first mother-daughter duo to be mobilized together from the unit. 

In her 26 years with the South Dakota Air National Guard, Senior Master Sergeant, Jennifer DeCou will be making her third deployment overseas. This deployment will look much different than the other two, as her daughter, Senior Airman, Jenaka DeCou will be right by her side as they complete their mission. 

Lennox resident, Jennifer DeCou’s main reason for joining the military 26 years ago was to carry on a family tradition of service. 

“Both of my grandfathers served in the military, and one of them served in the South Dakota Air National Guard as well, so growing up, I always wanted to travel and felt a calling to serve my country,” she said. 

Married to husband, Justin, the couple share three children, Jaetin, 23, Jenaka, 21, and Jayla, 14. 

“Jenaka was a student at SDSU up until this year when she started working at the Air Guard Base preparing for the deployment,” Jennifer said.

The family spends their time at their cabin by Pickstown and enjoys boating on the river and doing various water sports. 

Facing a deployment is nothing new to Senior Master Sergeant DeCou. This will be her third deployment in 23 of her 26 years.

 “I deployed previously to Saudi Arabia in 2001 and to Iraq in 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, when Jenaka was just six years old,” she said. 

In this deployment, Jennifer will serve as the Force Development Supervisor and Jenaka will work in Logistics.

As a close family, Jenaka felt the same pull to join the military as her mother. 

“I spent my whole life growing up around the military and also felt a calling to carry on our family’s tradition,” Jenaka said. 

The strong connection pulled Jenaka on a path that directly followed her great-grandfather’s footprints. 

“I enlisted in the South Dakota Air National Guard on December 4, 2020, as a Logistic Supply Technician, the very same squadron that my great-grandfather had served in decades prior and have worked in the Logistics Readiness Squadron for nearly three years,” she said.

Together, for the first time in the South Dakota Air National Guard’s history, the two will be deployed to East Asia. 

“We will be supporting a strategic deterrence mission by projecting airpower and demonstrating America’s resolve in the East Asia Region,” Jennifer said.

While exact dates for the deployment are yet to be determined, both women are prepared and ready for when the call comes. 

“I’m most excited to deploy alongside Jenaka and witness first-hand her deployment and be able to share that experience with her,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer is excited to share many experiences with her daughter that only someone who has deployed could understand. 

“We are both excited to travel together and learn about a new culture, but also being able to put our planning, training, and preparation into actual practice,” she said. 

Working with other guard members from other units will be a new experience for Jenaka as well. 

“It’s really rewarding to be a part of an organization like the Air National Guard. It’s a great culture and we are surrounded by some amazing individuals as many of our members are part-time and lead ordinary lives. However, it is really humbling to see the extraordinary things this team is capable of achieving together,”Jennifer said.

The mother-daughter duo both joined the South Dakota Air National Guard to feel closer to family and walk in their footsteps, and it is what both will miss most as they travel away. 

“We will miss our family the most and miss our time hanging out at the lake. We will miss the track season for Jayla, but we are excited that with all the technology available, we will hopefully be able to follow along online,” Jennifer said. 

Both agree, that although they will miss out on many things, it is for the greater good. 

“A lot of people say that serving in the military is a family tradition, and I think what that really means is that we grew up with a strong ethic of service and when you have that modeled in your life by a relative or close friend, you realize that serving your community, state, and nation can be an incredibly worthy and rewarding life pursuit,” Jennifer said. 


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