Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter
In 1998, a 20-year-old Chuck Henderson was concerned with the very thing most are at that age: the future.
But, when his mom asked him, “Have you ever thought about joining the military?”, he was inspired to begin a lifelong career of serving others.
“It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” says Chuck. “I went and talked to a recruiter. A couple of months later, I was gone.”
He was off to Basic Training in San Antonio, Texas. Afterward, he got into Air Force Law Enforcement. He was stationed in Minot, North Dakota, enduring a harsh winter with high winds and a constant cover of ice and snow. He describes it as being “worlds away from Jasper, Alabama.”
After two years, Chuck applied for a special duty assignment in Valdosta, Georgia, and was accepted into a new squadron, the 820th Security Forces Group, at the Moody Air Force Base.
Chuck was deployed to Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Baghdad, and Djibouti, before completing his six-year Air Force career in 2004. After carrying out his enlistment, he moved to Auburn, Alabama. He attended college classes while working in retail, which proved difficult.
“I tried my best, but going from carrying a weapon all the time to doing grunt work to business calculus – well, it was hard,” Chuck recalls.
After his first son was born, Chuck decided that a career in retail was not the best option for him and began applying for law enforcement jobs, both in Auburn and back home in Jasper. In 2009, Chuck was hired at the Jasper Police Department and began his lifelong career.
Although Chuck says JPD took a chance on him those 14 years ago, he has worked his way up to lieutenant and says he has done ‘everything in this department known to man.” Chuck started out on patrol and has cycled through special investigations, evidence, computer forensics, and admin duties.
Now, he is also a sniper for the SWAT Team, training recruits and handling high-threat situations.
“I wanted to be on the SWAT Team because, as an Air Force Cop, I was a support guy, not an operator. I wasn’t the guy kicking in the door, but being on the SWAT Team, now I’m kicking in the door,” says Chuck. “It’s an amazing feeling to learn to control your body, breathing, mind frame, and weapon, and know when and when not to shoot.”
Chuck is also very involved with Jasper City Schools, working sporting events, providing school security, and speaking to students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. No matter the situation, he is dedicated to the safety of each student.
It can be tough for Chuck to keep a good work-life balance, but he says his job at JPD has afforded him much, including being able to meet his wife, Erin. The couple have five sons, ranging from four to eighteen years old, and Chuck says that his most important job is leading his family.
“If I am not, first and foremost, a hero to my children, I’ve failed as a person and father.”
Throughout the uncertainties of life, SWAT school, other law enforcement classes, and becoming a lieutenant, Chuck has proved himself. Anyone who knows him can see this is who Chuck Henderson was meant to be. WL