Jaysen Carmen Herbert Lockett was nine when his parents divorced and only 11 when his dad died suddenly of a heart attack at 43. When he was older, his mom shared that his dad had suffered a minor heart attack several years before the one that killed him. His doctor had warned him if he didn’t quit smoking, his next heart attack could be his last.
Losing his dad so early in life hit Lockett hard. Harder still was knowing it could have been prevented. He says he will always wonder, if he could have convinced his dad to stop smoking, would it have made a difference? As tragic as his loss was, it taught him to never take anything or anyone for granted. It was a hard way to learn a valuable lesson, but one that helped him grow professionally and personally.
Professionally, he has a career he loves supporting a mission he’s passionate about. After trying unsuccessfully for over 30 years to work for the federal government, he was offered a job working for the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, or YPG, in southwest Arizona as a safety and occupational health specialist in the Mission Safety Directorate in May 2022.
YPG is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The Army’s premier test center for conducting developmental tests on ground combat equipment, YPG manages test operations at three locations: the Yuma Test Center in Yuma, Arizona; the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely, Alaska; and the Tropic Regions Test Center located in multiple locations in Central and South America.
Less than a year after being hired, Lockett was selected for his current position as the chief of the Combined Maintenance Branch for the Ground Combat Directorate’s Maintenance Division—a position he’s held since February 2023.
As chief, Lockett oversees the combined maintenance operations, the GSA vehicle service center, vehicle and equipment maintenance, and the welding and machine shops. He’s responsible for keeping track of government vehicles and equipment to ensure the required preventative maintenance and repairs are being performed. He also supervises a highly skilled team of 12 Department of the Army, or DA, civilians and 42 contract employees, which include crane operators, welders, mechanics and machinists.
Prior to working for YPG as a DA civilian, Lockett worked as a contractor supporting the Garrison’s Department of Public Works. In this role he was responsible for everything from grounds maintenance to power distribution for over 900 buildings. He and his team also built over 50 new buildings and remodeled several others.
Born and raised in Yuma, Arizona, there’s no other place he would rather live or work. During the 34 years he’s worked at YPG, he has built an impressive array of professional relationships with coworkers, colleagues, and senior leaders who can be counted on to help out when there’s a challenge to be solved.
One of the professional relationships he values the most is with Jeff Rogers, the director of the Air Combat Systems Test Directorate, whom he has known and supported for over 13 years. When Rogers became a division chief, his first order of business was to identify top performers at YPG he could rely on to make his division and YPG successful.
“I quickly learned Jaysen Lockett is a key contact totally committed to the YPG mission,” Rogers said. “He was always quick to lend a hand, was never afraid of a challenge, and if he wasn’t the person to solve the problem, he would personally take ownership to find the right person.”
Lockett agrees and says his professional superpower is the ability to quickly understand challenges and identify practical solutions before they can have a negative impact on the test mission. When faced with a challenge, he can leverage the excellent working relationships he has developed over the years. Due to his extensive network of professional contacts, he knows the right people to call with the right skills, knowledge, and abilities to develop strategies senior leaders will approve.
He also stubbornly refuses to accept no as an answer. Lockett believes there is always a way to solve a problem. In his estimation, too often, the people who are quick to say no are the ones who don’t want to go the extra mile. It may take more work, but if it will help protect the warfighter, it’s worth the extra time and effort. He says there is no better feeling than hearing the stories of the Soldiers who have returned home safely to their loved ones and knowing the testing YPG conducts played a big part in that.
Keeping morale high is essential to the YPG mission. When morale is high, Lockett says it creates teams who thrive on making a difference in the lives of the warfighters who put their lives on the line daily to defend and protect our country’s freedoms.
Early in his management career, he embraced the motto that you are only as good as the size of your shadow. To be a successful leader, Lockett says you need the full support of your team. Good leaders and bad ones taught him what to do and what not to do to get it.
Building a team willing to stand behind you, which increases the size of your shadow plus your impact, requires leading by example and empowering your team to do what they do best. Lockett says you must also be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. One of the ways he does this is by regularly getting out of his office to work alongside his team, especially during the summer months when the temperatures outside can reach 118 degrees Fahrenheit. This shows his team he’s not just their supervisor but also a team player willing to do whatever he has asked them to do.
Personally, he believes the loss of his father, and the priceless lesson he learned to never take the people you love for granted, helped make him a better husband to Amanda, his wife of 16 years, a better father to their three daughters, and a better grandparent to his five grandkids.
He attributes his personal and professional success to his father, who he can feel watching, guiding, and walking with him every step of the way, as well as his mother, who raised Lockett and his older sister, Vivian, on her own after the divorce. It’s only because of his father’s legacy and his mother’s unconditional love and steadfast support that he’s been able to achieve as much as he has. Recently, he earned a master’s degree in applied science from Columbia Southern University with an emphasis in occupational safety and health. He is a certified safety professional, the highest certification you can achieve on the engineering side of safety, and a certified safety and health manager, the highest on the management side.
For Lockett, it has always been more about the journey, not the destination. “Go where you’re looking and look where you’re going.” To be fully prepared for what’s to come, Lockett says you must look ahead and focus on where you want to go, not where you are.
What’s next? Lockett says he wants to continue his career with YPG and support the ATEC mission as long as possible. Ideally, he wants to be wherever he can be the most effective. Being the boss isn’t a huge motivator for him. One day Lockett hopes he will be the kind of leader who can fill the shoes his current supervisor, Mike Stanton, chief of the Maintenance Division, will leave behind when he retires. Stanton is one of the many leaders at YPG Lockett looks up to as a leader who is committed to furthering the YPG and Army missions.
If not, he’s happy to continue doing what he does best: supporting his team, solving problems and developing innovative solutions that allow the warfighters to do their jobs safely so they can come back home to their families. He doesn’t know if anything could inspire anyone more than that.