NISKAYUNA -- As he prepares to graduate from the U.S. Army War College on July 24, Lt. Col. Jason Lefton reflects on the two invaluable lessons he's learned over the last two years.
“The biggest takeaway is challenging your assumptions,” Lefton said. “I push my thoughts aside, I analyze new information, I’m open to more ideas. [It also teaches you] to collaborate and get things done at a strategic level.”
Lefton’s lessons come to him after he’s worked tirelessly toward his Master’s in strategic studies at the college, often seen as a "right of passage" for many who look to climb the ranks in the military, since 2018. Before that, the 44-year-old Niskayuna resident graduated from UAlbany in 1998, attended military school in Alabama and completed an MBA at the University of Phoenix online. As he rose through the ranks of the Army’s National Guard, and attended the Army War College to fulfill a requirement to someday possibly become a general, Lefton has truly learned what it means to multitask.
Lefton, who is also a husband and a father, serves as the New York State Army Aviation Officer and the Blackhawk Battalion Commander. He admits, as he’s studied the past two years on top of his many roles, things get quite busy.
“I’ve had to sacrifice time and events. My work/life balance has been so slanted to the work that I probably have to rehabilitate some relationships in the fall,” Lefton joked.
In one sense, the pandemic has made his balancing act a bit easier. Flight cancellations and trip postponements have given the lieutenant colonel more time with his family, and when he graduates next week, he’s excited to enjoy it without his studies getting in the way.
“I would’ve missed my kids’ baseball game because I was working all the time,” Lefton said. “In a way, that got cancelled and I feel bad for them, but I didn’t have to miss it. And doing distance allowed me to get all these things down because I’m still able to help New York State with their aviation program, I’m still flying as a Blackhawk pilot myself.”
Lefton said none of his accomplishments -- both past and future -- would be possible without the unwavering support from his family, including his two sons, Mack and Seth, and his wife, Heather.
“I felt like this benefited us as a family and our future, and they truly were part of it.”
As for his next steps, Lefton will continue as State Army Aviation officer and, eventually, read a good book.
“When this is done, I’ll actually be able to read something for my own personal enjoyment instead of military stuff -- which isn’t all that bad.”