‘It’s a small world’: Two St. C. grads working at Pentagon
ARLINGTON, Virginia — A couple of St. Clairsville High School graduates expressed what a “small world” it really is after running into each other and discovering they are both employed under the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon.
More than 280 miles away from their hometown, Ashley Jackson, a 2002 graduate of St. Clairsville High School and confidential assistant to the CSAF, and Lt. Col. Matthew Sabatino, a 2003 St. Clairsville High School graduate and strategist of the CSAF Executive Action Group, made the discovery in late spring/early summer that they were both employed under 4-star Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
Jackson recalled that she had thought she heard a familiar voice from her hometown of St. Clairsville while sitting at her desk.
“I can remember the day that it happened. … He walked into the chief of staff’s front office where I work and he started talking to me and I’m thinking to myself, ‘This boy sounds really familiar,'” she said, adding that she immediately asked him if he was “Matt Sabatino from St. Clairsville,” which he confirmed.
Jackson said the two were not close in high school but she knew him through a mutual friend. After telling Sabatino that he previously dated one of her good friends in school, he knew exactly who she was as well.
“It was totally bizarre. Who would have ever thought in this great big world that we live in that two graduates from a small town in Ohio would land in the Pentagon working for the same 4-star general?” she said.
Though the pair of former St. Clairsville residents typically see each other on a weekly basis, Sabatino was unable to comment for this report, as he was out of the office at a conference last week.
“Matt and I both want to sincerely thank the town of St. C for raising us so well. We take small town values with us wherever we go and give a special shout-out to our teachers,” Jackson said on behalf of herself and Sabatino.
Following high school, Jackson received her undergraduate degree at Ohio University, where she studied journalism and political science. She then joined the U.S. Department of Treasury through the Federal Intern Program.
“As I worked my way up through a variety of positions, I ended up in Washington, D.C., in 2012 working at the main Treasury Department. From 2015-2018, I decided to take a break from federal service and went back to school to get a master’s in social work. I was led to come back to the federal government. Public service is in my DNA, it’s a huge part of who I am. … I truly believe there is still good in the federal government,” she said.
Jackson has been in her current role as confidential assistant to the CSAF since March 2021.
“If you would have told me as a young girl from a small town in Ohio that I would land in the Pentagon working at the highest levels of the United States, I would’ve never believed you. I attribute it to my parents, who have an extremely hard work ethic and that’s how I was raised,” she said.
Jackson credits her success to her parents, Billy and Sheila Jackson who still reside in the city, as well as her high school teachers who helped push her.
A major highlight in her career is that she recently helped facilitate a visit to the Pentagon by Dr. Anthony Fauci, former chief medical advisor to the president of the United States and former director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I reached out to Dr. Fauci in October to invite him to the Pentagon to thank him for his years of public service. … No matter politics and COVID aside, it’s all about his public service. He worked for the federal government for 54 years. It’s just about serving,” she said, adding that his visit was her favorite day working at the Pentagon. “… Meeting him is a day I’ll treasure forever.”
Sabatino was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Air Force late last year; Brown presided over his promotion ceremony. He is married to wife Angela, with whom he shares two children, 5-year-old Evan and 7-year-old Bella. His parents, Carol and Frank Sabatino, still live in St. Clairsville and make their way to Washington, D.C., often to visit the family.
Jackson said she appreciates her small town roots.
“Growing up in a small town such as St. Clairsville, it really instilled in me good values and how important it is to really have a strong, rounded base and never forget where you came from,” she added.
She said she came back home to visit in October and was told by a friend that she has not changed a bit over the years. She said that statement meant a lot to her.
“I’m really proud that I haven’t let a job or a position or living in a tough city like Washington change who I am at my core,” she said.
Jackson said she wants to encourage current students to consider a future career in public service, which she feels brings her a sense of purpose and the opportunity to learn and grow, and offers the means to make a difference in the world.