Service Before Self: Major Jake Bird is an exemplar of service, both locally and nationally.
By Breanna Call
“Service before self” is a motto Major Jake Bird lives by. He serves both our local community as a patrol officer and our country as a major in the military. His grandfathers and uncles on both sides of his family had served in the military, so it was no surprise when Bird himself decided to serve in this capacity. “I’ve always had a strong desire to serve and be in the adventure that the military offered,” Bird says. “There was no dissuading me from it. I wanted to be challenged. And what better way than in service to my community, my neighbors, and my country?”
Bird was born in the old hospital in Afton and was raised in Auburn. He had a desire to serve others from a young age. After graduating from Star Valley High School, Bird joined the Air Force ROTC at the University of Wyoming and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in geography. Once he had his degree, he competed for a spot in the Marine Corps. He went through a series of applications, physical and aptitude tests, and interviews. “It was pretty intense,” states Bird.
Eventually, the Marine Corps offered him a position at Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. Here, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Of the experience, Bird says, “It wasn’t the type of thing where you show up and they train you. It was more, ‘Can you thrive in this environment?’ They wanted to see if you could lead other marines in a stressful environment, whether physically or mentally.” Bird would commonly plan missions and execute them in stressful environments on little sleep while also leading other marines. “It was very demanding,” Bird admits. In Quantico, Bird also met and married his wife, Heidi.
After Officer Candidate School, Bird joined the aviation side of the Marine Corps as an air defense control officer and first lieutenant. He was on active duty from 2007–2011 and spent his time serving in Florida, Arizona, and California. Eventually, Bird and his wife decided to move back to Star Valley, where they are currently raising their four children. “I liked the quality of life in Star Valley that I grew up with. I wanted to return home and have that lifestyle with my family,” says Bird.
In Star Valley, Bird joined the Star Valley Marine Corps Reserves as a captain and transitioned to the ground side in 2012. “One of our biggest roles in the reserves is to support active-duty counterparts. I would go to Korea or Japan to help there,” Bird explains.
In 2013, Bird decided to take a short break from the military. He attended the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas, Wyoming, and became a deputy sheriff for Lincoln County. “The police force is certainly different from the military. There are some parallels though. I wanted to carry on that tradition of serving the community. It made sense to me to join the police force,” explains Bird
In 2016, Bird switched to the Afton Police Department as a patrol officer. Bird says, “Because we’re such a small department, we have to know a broad spectrum of law, which is really challenging sometimes.” Bird also adds, “I don’t want to be a police officer anywhere else. I like to serve locally.” In addition to his police duties, Bird rejoined the Marine Corps Reserves as part of a Tactical Air Command Squadron. Of being asked how he manages to serve in both the military and police force, Bird says, “It’s a juggling act, but I know I perform a critical part in both military and community.”
Bird has gone above and beyond to serve those around him. Along with his National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medial, Bird was awarded his fourth Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in June of this year. These medals are given when leaders recognize someone who has surpassed expectations in dedication, work ethic, and service. About receiving his fourth medal, Bird says, “I just work and do the best I can. Honestly, I look at it as if my fellow marines are successful, then I’m successful. It’s not a single person’s actions that go into those awards. It’s really a team working together.”
Recently, Bird has joined the Wyoming National Guard, where he hopes to become an artillery or logistics officer. Bird says, “I love serving. I am very proud to have met that challenge and adventure.”
We are grateful to Bird for his service to our community and country.