Sgt. Major Jack Tussey proves the saying that “those who can’t, teach” is both wrong and dangerous.
Tussey, 60, a Danville resident originally from Berea, has been in the armed forces since 1970 when he volunteered and became a private in the Kentucky Army National Guard. Since then, he has achieved the highest rank available to a non-commissioned officer.
He served in both the Kentucky National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve as an infantryman, heavy equipment operator, truck driver, supply specialist and finally as an instructor in the military's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, or CBRN, response program.
After four decades of service, he's finally ready for retirement. He has left an imprint that will last far beyond his active career.
Originally, the CBRN was set up to deal with the aftermath of the Cold War going hot, but after 9-11, members redefined themselves as first responders to terrorist attacks against the “home soil.”
As an instructor, Tussey made sure his students are prepared for such catastrophes.
“It’s no different than a firefighter going in and fighting fires, or a police officer going in and doing their job,” Tussey said. “It’s all about training.”
The test scores required to qualify for CBRN training are high, because when dealing with weaponized diseases or radioactive materials, you can't afford a mistake.
The requirement to be right the first time is highlighted by the rigorous, and dangerous, training the students must go through.
For example, all students must prove they can keep calm under pressure by working in a chamber with a live nerve agent in the air, just like it would be during a terrorist attack.
“A lot goes on behind the scenes, the average citizen has no idea,” Tussey said. “We have our sons and daughters working all the time to protect the homeland. That's what makes us great as a nation, as a people.”
Tussey understands having a son working to protect the homeland. He and his wife, Helen, have one child whom they raised in Danville — Army Major Jason Tussey.
“My best moment was when my son graduated from college, and he was commissioned as an officer,” Tussey said.
Jason Tussey grew up watching his dad and wanting to be in the military as well. He also saw how well-suited his father was for instruction.
“Dad likes to teach,” Jason Tussey said. “He likes to show people and share knowledge. That’s what he did, and he’s perfect for it. Patient, tenacious and he just gets the job done.”
In 2002, Jack Tussey helped train 70 percent of all CBRN forces for the military, and even some NATO officers as well. By 2006, he was helping train 70 percent of the CBRN leadership and all of the American civil support teams.
Through all of that, though, Jack Tussey never let his life slip through his fingers.
In addition to his military career, he worked at Trane Air Conditioning as a die-setter for 41 years. In fact, he retired from there the same day he retired from the military, July 1. Even there, he didn't miss a chance to teach, though.
Ten years ago, he started to work as a health and safety trainer for the United Auto Workers. He taught general industry safety classes and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, in spite of his retirement. And even with all of this, he still found time to spend quality time fishing and hunting with his son — and managed to get more than a few lessons in there as well.
“He taught me everything I know,” Jason Tussey said. “I remember he would always say, 'There is always a way.' That's helped me every day as an officer, really every day of my life.”
Jack Tussey is certainly proud of his son as an officer and as a man. There is one lesson that Jason Tussey learned without needing to be told, though, which he'll have to remember no matter how far up the chain of command he goes.
“You never outrank Dad,” Jack Tussey said. “He understands that.”