News: Soldier’s aviation dream takes flight
Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash.—A 28-year-old soldier sits in the cockpit of a mosquito shaped helicopter. He performs operational checks on the aircraft hoping that one day he will return to the seat not as a repairer, but as a pilot.
Spc. Chad Jones, an aircraft armament/electronic/avionic systems repairer with the 4th Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment here, demonstrates through his strong work ethic, a determination to reach his goal of becoming an Army pilot.
Jones, a native of Sevier, Utah, a small farming community, completed his bachelors degree in outdoor recreation in parks and tourism at Southern Utah University before enlisting in the Army to pursue a career in aviation.
“I was offered to work as a repairer on the OH-58D(r) Kiowa Warrior,” Jones said. “I did some research on the helicopter and thought the small, deep forest green helicopter was really high speed. It has a ball on the top, kind of like a periscope in a submarine, which has a laser, night vision and video capability. It can get into tight spaces such as between buildings and hover behind a hill, maintaining a little bit of secrecy from the enemy while still able to watch them.”
Jones left Utah for basic training May 2010 at Fort Jackson, S.C., and followed on with six months of Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Va., gaining knowledge about the bird.
Jones’ supervisor, Sgt. Mathew Boozer, a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, described he and Jones as “practically neighbors” due to the proximity of their home states and said it is refreshing to have a Soldier bring a strong work ethic to the Army.
“Some of the guys at the shop poke fun at Spc. Jones,” Boozer said. “Recently we were at the Yakima Training Center and one of the guys overheard Spc. Jones say that he wanted to stack empty .50-caliber ammunition cans and rocket casings in a partial enclosed trailer to maximize space. Pretty much all the guys were asleep, so we joke that his work ethic would bother him to the point where maybe he’ll lose sleep at night.”
Jones credits his father for his strong work ethic. As early as age 5, he started working along side his father on the ranch and in construction work. Jones spent his after-school hours driving supplies around on a tractor, digging trenches with a backhoe, running wires in a house, and laying pipe for a water line out to a horse corral.
“While everyone was playing video games I was out digging holes with a tractor. I grew up thinking work was play,” Jones said. “I got to play with the biggest Tonka trucks any kid had ever seen.”
The miracle of flight has fascinated Jones ever since he was a kid and he always dreamt of flying. He was amazed by their speed and intrigued by the science of a plane staying up in the air.
“I rode my all terrain vehicle around, jumping with it over gravel pits trying to get airborne. I would build speed, hit the jump and get about 30 feet of distance laterally, about seven feet vertically and I never managed to break any bones.”
Jones’ father, a volunteer emergency medical technician for 25 years, inspired Jones’ ultimate goal to save Soldiers lives on the battlefield as a pilot.
“I was probably 14 years old when my dad and I were working at our house and he got a call for a pickup truck that had wrecked,” Jones said. “My dad wouldn’t leave me alone so I went too. There were three guys who looked about 17 years old lying on the ground unconscious and banged up pretty bad. I got a pair of latex gloves on and held pressure on bleeding wounds.”
Jones made his first attempt to gain admitance to flight school by submitting his warrant officer packet in January.
“I did not get picked up for warrant officer this year but I will continue to work on ways to improve my packet for next year’s submission,” Jones said, hoping his work toward becoming a medevac pilot in the Army pays off.
Jones said he plans to make himself more competitive by changing his military occupational specialty to an unmanned aerial system operator. As an UAS operator, he will be able to log flight hours and show he has an aptitude for flying.
He thinks about his wife Sondra, who is pregnant with their fourth child, wondering what their future will hold. Confident in himself and his ability to chase his dreams he exits the pilot’s seat as a repairer, at least for now.