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JMU - Supporting U.S. troops from the air

Jeffrey Cretz ('03) serves second deployment in Middle East
By Hali Chiet ('07)

EC-130H navigator and squadron executive officer Jeffrey Cretz (’03) says hello in the skies over Afghanistan in July 2006. From June to October 2006, Cretz and his crew flew 50 electronic attack missions for 274 combat hours.

EC-130H navigator and squadron executive officer Jeffrey Cretz ('03) says hello in the skies over Afghanistan in July 2006. From June to October 2006, Cretz and his crew flew 50 electronic attack missions for 274 combat hours.

Wanted to make a difference

Capt. Jeffrey Cretz ('03) says he grew up wanting to make a difference in the world. The son of a diplomat for the Department of State, Cretz grew up in Pakistan, Syria, India, Israel, China and Egypt. His interest in the military was sparked while spending time around U.S. Marines at various Marine Security Guard Detachments.

"The Marines were at every embassy I have been to, and I hung out with them and listened to their stories," he says. "It seemed really interesting the missions, the traveling, the camaraderie everything that's a part of being in the military."

A JMU media arts and design major

Cretz graduated from JMU with a B.S. in media arts and design, completing concentrations in interactive multimedia and digital video, as well as a minor in business. He also participated in several extracurricular activities, working as a writer for The Breeze and Bluestone; serving as a Student Ambassador and member of Mortarboard and the Wayland Hall Council; hosting a hip-hop show on WXJM; playing for the club tennis team; and holding memberships in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Golden Key International Honor Society.

His experiences at JMU taught him a lot about himself and others. "I learned that you can meet so many people and that everyone has something to offer. Everybody has a story."

Military training

Cretz began his military career shortly after graduation. From August to October 2003, he attended the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. On Oct. 31, he graduated from the program and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

From October 2003 to April 2005, he attended and graduated from Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. During this time, Cretz also completed the Air and Space Basic Course at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., Combat Survival Training at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., and Water Survival Training at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

From April to June 2005, Cretz completed the C-130 Initial Navigator Qualification course at Little Rock Air Force Base in Little Rock, Ark. From July 2005 to March 2006, he completed his EC-130H Navigator Qualification course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. On Oct. 31, 2005, Cretz was promoted to first lieutenant.

Deployed to Afghanistan

In March 2006, Cretz became a combat-ready EC-130H navigator and squadron executive officer at the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona. Cretz deployed to Afghanistan in late June 2006. From June to early October, Cretz and his crew flew 50 electronic attack missions for 274 combat hours. "I could tell there was a huge humanitarian effort to get the country moving again on its own feet," he says.

While in Afghanistan, Cretz earned two Air Medals, which are awarded for every 20 combat missions, as well as the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. Cretz says one of his favorite parts of being in the military is the relationships that are established. "There is so much camaraderie knowing that although we may be in the Air Force, Army, Navy or Marines, we're all on the same team helping one another accomplish the mission."

"I love to be in the air protecting our troops on the ground"

Making sure things run smoothly

After returning stateside, Cretz was stationed at the 41st Electronic Combat Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in Arizona. As executive officer, he serves as the aid to the squadron commander. He manages correspondence into and out of the squadron, works on decorations and performance reports for people in the unit, and prepares weekly staff meetings for squadron leadership. "My job is to make sure things are going smoothly. Most people in the unit fly training missions on the EC-130H once or twice a week, and the rest of the week we're in our offices completing daily tasks, catching up on ground training, or preparing to deploy."

Working towards master's degree

In addition to his military duties, Cretz is currently working towards a master's degree in aeronautical science through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Tucson. "I hope to use this degree to teach or to find a really interesting and challenging job in the aviation industry," he says.

Cretz, now in the Air Force Reserves stationed in North Carolina, was promoted to captain in October 2007. Prior to joining the Reserves, he had just returned from his second deployment to Afghanistan in a joint flying/liaison officer assignment. "I love to be in the air protecting our troops on the ground," he says.