Serving through the season: Airman 1st Class Jack Smithson III Published Jan. 3, 2007 By Tech. Sgt. Scott Wakefield Detachment 4, Air Force News Agency ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, United Kingdom (AFPN) -- With security forces' manning levels already low due to deployments to Iraq, Airman First Class Jack Smithson knew he would work at the main gate on Christmas. It's a job he joined the Air Force to do, as he follows in his father's footsteps. "Sitting in a patrol car is easier duty," Airman Smithson said, "but out here on the gate, you get to meet people." His father served in the Air Force in security forces in the early 1980s, and was also stationed at RAF Lakenheath, where the young Airman was born. Airman Smithson started his Air Force career almost a year ago when he became bored at home in Clovis, Calif., and college became too expensive. After graduating Clovis High School in 2003, he started attending Fresno State in Fresno, Calif., where he finished his associate's degree in criminal justice. Although the single Airman has no family here in the area, he looks forward to spending time with the friends he's made at work. "I plan to relax following the six days of 14-hour shifts we'll be working," he said. "You don't get a lot of time to do that." He also wants to kick back and watch TV. Leaders at the 48th Security Forces Squadron feel confident in the abilities of Airman Smithson. "Knowing the dedication ... (the Airmen) ... have to their country and their job, I'm proud they wear the same beret I wear and I am very comfortable knowing they are protecting me and my family," said the first sergeant, Master Sergeant Robert Hoyt. The squadron has 200 first-termers who will work during the holidays, whether at RAF Lakenheath or deployed to places like Iraq or Afghanistan. "I would like to be home for Christmas," Airman Smithson said, "but I know it's my duty to be here to protect and serve." He chose to work Christmas and take New Years off, so that the Airmen with family over here could spend it with their loved ones. "BMT and tech school prepares you for being away from home, but I call them every chance I get," he said. He knows the job that he did at the gate Christmas morning was the same duty that his fellow security forces specialists were doing downrange, but respects the fact they are doing the job in more dangerous circumstances -- something he would be doing if he were in their shoes.