Following a stellar career in the U.S. Air Force, H.D. “Jake” Polumbo, Jr. could have taken a common post-military career path for retired officers. He easily could have joined a company in the U.S. aerospace or aviation industries or one of the many companies supporting the U.S. military.
But, he didn’t do that.
Following his retirement in July 2015 as Commander of the U.S. 9th Air Force, Polumbo and his wife, Sandra, could have made their new home wherever a conventional job in the civilian world might have taken him.
But, they didn’t do that.
Rather than taking the easy or conventional path to new work opportunities, rather than working for someone else, the Polumbos chose instead to be entrepreneurs. And rather than make a home in perhaps some unfamiliar area of the country, they chose to make their home where they really wanted to be—Polk County, where they both grew up.
Jake Polumbo retired as a Major General following 34 years of active duty with the Air Force. After relinquishing his command of the 9th Air Force, headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, S.C., Polumbo and his wife headed to Florida and a temporary home in Cortez, a small Gulf Coast commercial fishing village near Sarasota. It was there that they started Two Blue Aces, LLC, a consulting company focusing on strategy, leadership, and solutions, in November 2015. The Polumbos were back in Polk County, close to family and friends, early this year after buying a house in Lakeland.
Two Blue Aces was not a spur-of-the-moment business launch. Polumbo says the idea to get into consulting work and form the company predates his retirement from the military. “It was a two- to three-year thought process,” he recalls.
“I just decided that rather than seek a job and find a home, I’d rather move and then focus on post-retirement employment,” Polumbo says. “I think I probably could have landed a major job with a major defense company, but I just decided I would rather enjoy assisting businesses and other executives, using my experience in the military.”
Two Blue Aces serves businesses, committees, boards of directors, organizations, and assemblies through “in-depth consulting … with a strong focus on strategy, leadership, and solutions at the executive level.” The Polumbos also give motivational talks that convey “a message with energy and sense of purpose.”
With a long and accomplished career in the military, Jake Polumbo has expertise in the defense, air, and space industries, as well as in personnel and organizational management and leadership. He entered Air Force active duty in 1981, as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he has a long list of commands and military campaigns to his credit. As a command pilot, he flew combat sorties during Operation Northern Watch over Iraq and completed 21 operational U-2 missions in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He earned a master of science degree in aeronautical science technology from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has extensive management experience in large operations and public-private efforts.
Sandra Polumbo has more than 25 years of experience managing not-for-profit and for-profit organizations in the United States, Europe, and South Korea. She specializes in effective cross-cultural communication, analytical insight, competent organizational structure, and master planning. She also knows how to adapt, having juggled and managed 29 moves during her husband’s 34-year military career. She has a bachelor’s degree in radiological science from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and a master’s degree in human relationships from Oklahoma University.
Also on the Two Blue Aces team, as a newly added partner and senior consultant, is Maj. Gen. James J. “Rev” Jones, USAF (Ret.). Prior to retiring from the Air Force, after more than 31 years of service, Jones served as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans, and Requirements. There, he was responsible to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff for formulating policy supporting air, space, irregular warfare, counterproliferation, homeland security, weather, and cyber operations. “Rev’s military experience affords him the ability to provide senior-level strategy planning, leadership training, and solution-driven consulting to clients,” the Two Blue Aces’ website notes.
The Polumbos both are graduates of Winter Haven High School—Jake in 1977 and Sandra in 1978—and Jake Polumbo is a 2014 inductee into the Polk County Public Schools Hall of Fame.
Jake Polumbo says he has a fond memory of “piling into the family station wagon” and launching out for a long-distance move from Alaska to Winter Haven when he was in the fourth grade, after his father retired from the Air Force.
Polumbo says Polk County lies within a great nexus of opportunity, with abundant economic potential spilling westward out of Orlando, and the growth of Fortune 500 companies there, and the technological needs of the Tampa Bay area, which serves as home to two extremely important military missions, U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Polumbo says a perfect example of potential economic development connectivity between “these major cities right here on our flank (Orlando to the east and Tampa and St. Petersburg to the west)” is the new Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland. “The creativity embedded in Florida Poly’s programs is the reason for its existence,” he says.
Polumbo says Two Blue Aces has its business home in Polk County for reasons both personal and economically strategic.
“Polk County, Florida, is home to both Sandra and me,” he says. “We still have lots of family in the area, and both of us have kept in touch with many of our high school friends. It’s a natural fit for us.”
On the business side, Polumbo says, “I’m optimistic about Central Florida’s growth potential in the defense and aerospace sectors—Two Blue Aces’ area of expertise. It might not seem that way to some who have lived here all their lives, but I’ve seen the changes first hand since moving back to the area after nearly 40 years in the Air Force. And with Orlando having such a high-tech slant to it, and Tampa having some of the same characteristics, I feel confident that Polk County can use our central position in that corridor to our advantage.”
Polumbo says he also likes the fact that Florida Polytechnic University is emerging as an economic and technological engine in the region.
“Lastly, and often overlooked, is the presence of two U.S. combatant commands … in Tampa on MacDill Air Force Base,” he says. “That opportunity might be forgotten by some businessmen and women in the area, but it’s my professional opinion that those two COCOMs can list some real capability gaps in the defense and security arenas to smart Floridians who can turn those challenges – and gaps – into opportunities.”