MCPHERSON — McPherson County Sheriff Jerry Montagne switched uniforms Monday for a visit to Lincoln Elementary School in McPherson — leaving his McPherson County Sheriff’s uniform in the closet to don his Air Force uniform instead.
Before Montagne became a civilian law enforcement officer, he got his start in the United States Air Force where he trained before joining the Air National Guard, achieving the rank of sergeant and serving as a security policeman for six years.
Sheriff Jerry Montagne is a McPherson resident of 26 years and has spent more than 30 years in law enforcement. he graduated from KLETC in 1983 and the U.S. Air Force Police Academy in 1982. He was a Senior Deputy Sheriff in Nemaha County Sheriff's Office prior to serving for the McPherson Police Department.
Montagne’s father, Jerome F. Montagne, also served in the armed forces, joining the army in 1944. The older Montagne served on a tank crew in Germany during World War II, working to stymie Nazi tanks.
After his time in the army, Jerome F. Montagne became a railroad engineer for 42 years. Jerry Montagne said his father’s example played a significant role in his career path.
“He definitely inspired me. I was this close to going full-time, but I wanted to do civilian police work too,” Jerry Montagne told the Sentinel in 2017.
Jerry Montagne remained in the service from 1982 to 1987 and became a Nemaha County Sheriff’s Deputy in 1982. He then joined the McPherson police force in 1990. He earned a degree in sociology and administrative justice from Bethany College, and is now the sheriff of McPherson County.
“A lot of things I learned in the military also apply to police work, from building searches and riot control to defensive tactics,” Jerry Montagne said. “I have the benefit of both worlds.”
His years in the Air National Guard did give him time to make some good stories. On one occasion, he served on the security detail for former president George H. W. Bush.
Monday he spent time with students, showing them his Air Force uniforms.
“He also brought a picture of his father, his father's uniform and another uniform of his,” said principal Cody Rierson. “Jerry had a good time with the students informing them about Veteran's Day and telling them stories. The McPherson community, along with LES, are blessed to have involved veterans such as Jerry.”