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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2023

Col. Kevin Jacobs to Become the Chief of Staff, First Black General in the Illinois Air National Guard

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois - The Illinois Air National Guard announced the appointment of Col. Kevin Jacobs as the Chief of Staff and will pin on his star as a new brigadier general on Saturday, Dec. 2, making him the first Black general officer in the history of the organization.

"I'm honored to congratulate Air Force Colonel Kevin Jacobs on his promotion to brigadier general and on becoming the highest-ranking Black officer in the Illinois Air National Guard's history," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Colonel Jacobs’ promotion speaks to the continued progress the Illinois National Guard has made in ensuring historically underrepresented communities are fairly represented within its ranks and given the opportunity to excel at the highest levels of leadership, as Colonel Jacobs has clearly done and will certainly continue to do.”

“Throughout his career, Kevin Jacobs has taken increasingly challenging command and staff positions and has earned the respect and admiration of those Airmen who have served with him,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and the Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “He is an outstanding officer and I look forward to seeing what he will accomplish as the Illinois Air National Guard’s Chief of Staff.  

Jacobs began his career in 1984, as an exterior electrician for the 126th Civil Engineering Squadron. He commissioned in 1994 as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Academy of Military Science and was assigned to the 217th Engineering and Installation Squadron. Later in 1994, he was assigned to the 126th Civil Engineering Squadron as the Deputy Base Civil Engineer. Since 1999, he has held various positions in the state and 126th Air Refueling wing, to include Commander of the 126th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Deputy Commander of the 126th Mission Support Group, Inspector General of the 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard Director of Staff, 126th Mission Support Group Commander and 126th Air Refueling Wing Commander at Scott Air Force Base.

As the 126th Air Refueling Wing Commander, he led over 900 personnel executing global mobility operations, including both air refueling and airlift, supporting a wide range of conventional and nuclear operation plans.

“This is a significant milestone,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel R. McDonough, Assistant Adjutant General – Air, Illinois National Guard. “Jacobs is a proven leader with an extraordinary background. Seeing our Airmen ascend to the top is a great feeling. From our junior enlisted, to our officers, we must continue to grow great leaders.”

Jacobs, who lives in O’Fallon, is already federally recognized as a brigadier general and is just awaiting his official ceremony to pin on his first star. He has served in the Guard for nearly 40 years. His career has seen him climb the ladder from 10 years as an enlisted Airman to various command and staff positions.

“First, I thank God for this tremendous leadership opportunity and for everything he has done for me and my family. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve in the Illinois Air National Guard for almost 40 years,” Jacobs said. “Developing your career doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes immense dedication and family support.  I attribute this accomplishment, in large part, to the love and  support of my devoted wife of 32 years, Michelle, and to our 3 incredible children Darien, Kierra, and Erica.  I would not be in the position I am in today if it wasn’t for her and for them.  Their patience, perseverance, and understanding helped me balance the needs and activities of our family with my military commitments.”

Jacobs holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Science degree in Environmental Management from Webster University, completion of the U.S. Northern Command’s Dual-Status Commanders Course, and the U.S. Air Force War College.

Assignment editors: Col. Jacobs’ promotion ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m., Dec. 2, at the 126th Air Refueling Wing on Scott Air Force Base. Media interested in covering this historic ceremony must RSVP no later than 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30, to Mr. Ken Stephens at or by calling 618-222-5761 to ensure access through Scott Air Force Base security. Mr. Stephens will give further media guidance.