When I first sat down to interview US Army Veteran, Shaun Jones, I got really excited because it was the first interview I did with a veteran. The more questions I asked, the more I got excited and inspired. The learning experience I am getting from the interviews is priceless, and there is nothing I would do to change them.
Shaun Jones, Master Sergeant
United States Army and National Guard
Serving in the United States Army and National Guard for 24 years, Shaun Jones definitely had a complete and fulfilling career in the military. His story is inspiring and his journey is fun and full of adventure.
Why did you decide to join the military?
Initially, I joined for the college money. But as we learned in basic training, no one joins for the college money; they join for the fun. It was fun for me, and I ended up staying for the full 24 years. The college money definitely helped out and now I’m able to transfer what I didn’t use to my son which is really cool.
How long did you serve?
Active duty was 4 years and the rest was the National Guard for 20 years.
What are some of the places you were stationed?
Basic Training: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
AIT (Advanced Initial Training): Fort Jackson, South Carolina
Camp Casey, Korea
Fort Sill Oklahoma
Buckley Air Force Base, Fort Carson for a little while, the Denver Armory, and finally back to Buckley Air Force Base.
How did you feel while you were serving? (Successful, lonely, etc…)
I would say the only time I felt lonely was in Korea. The area where we were stationed – some of the buildings were like the old mountain towns, so that made me a little homesick. But the whole time I was in the military and stationed in all those places, it was fun and I was busy. I felt rewarded that what I was doing was noticed and that I was doing something. I was never bored waiting for something to do. I was always busy doing something. I was also doing what I loved while I was busy, so it made it all worthwhile.
What was it like while you were in? (Rough, thrilling, etc…)
Some probably had it a lot rougher than me. Some might have had it easier than me. There were some instances where I had to get my Senators involved to get what was due to me at the time. When I was stationed in Korea during the first Golf War, my replacement didn’t come, and he got shipped to Iraq instead. I ended up having to stay longer than most people had to back then. It’s tough when you’re away, and at the time I was 19 years old.
What was training like for you?
The nice thing about training for me was that the recruiter that enlisted me said, “You got to go in there with the mindset that they’re going to play their little game, and if you play their game, they’ll leave you alone, and it won’t be as hard.” The people that fought that game had it tougher. So if they told me I had to wake up at 4 AM, I would wake up at 4 AM. I played the game. In the end when I graduated, the Drill Sergeant didn’t remember my name. That told me and a few others that we did a good job for the eight weeks.
You enlisted, what was your experience like?
It was interesting. The first thing I did was take the ASVAB. So it was 3 hours of sitting in a room with a whole bunch of people. The test would ask some weird questions. Some were obvious, and some were just math questions. They used that data to see what my knowledge base was, and it helped my recruiter put me into a job that fit what I knew. The medical side of it was just as interesting. After I enlisted they put us up in a hotel before we had to fly out to boot camp, so that was another thing I found interesting.
What was your job in the military?
When I first enlisted, I was what they call a heavy wheel mechanic. I worked on things 10 tons and heavier, but I also worked on forklifts. Further in, I had to go through some separate training which allowed me to be able to fix basically anything on the ground and moving.
Did you build good friendships?
Yes I did. My email is full of messages from people I met throughout my military career. You develop that bond that never breaks.
What did your family think when you were in the military?
When I was in, they were real supportive. My wife had military family, so she already had an idea of what it’s like. And we got married after I joined, so she also knew what she was coming into. My son likes that I was in the military too, and I tried to make it fun for him. My father was actually in the Coast Guard before. So he was mad I didn’t go Coast Guard, but they both were very supportive. They were there to help my wife with anything she needed.
Were there any moments you were afraid?
Tons of moments. A lot of them were while I was deployed. When you’re on a base, you start to think if a mortar comes in, there’s nothing you can do. Even when I was stationed on Balad, they were mortaring it all the time. While I was over there, I think there was 1700 mortar attacks. It would come in day and night. One time I was driving a Hemet full of jet fuel, and one of the tests we had to do was testing the brakes. So you have to get up the speed and slam on the brakes. Well, that time when I worked on the HEMTT (Heavy expanded mobility tactical truck), I had an assistant helping me. When we got to the brake adjustment, I did one side of the truck; he did the other. Learning after the fact that I should have checked his work as well. What ended up happening when I did the “panic stop,” the truck turned side-ways. There’s times like that that I could have easily killed myself. You know it’s there, so you always have a little fear.
Did you serve in a war?
Yes, I served in the first Golf War while I was in Korea. I went to Iraq for 18 months as well. I’ve been in war zones in other areas as well.
Did you feel like your career in the military was a successful and fulfilling one?
I think so. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have stayed 24 years. I measure the success by what I did and the impact I made on other people.
Are there any stories you’d like to share?
There’s always lots of stories. To name a few, there was a guy I was in basic training with and he had a kid. So a majority of the recruits and I threw a little party for him. Another time at Basic Training, a couple guys and myself got in trouble for sneaking out to fill our laundry bags with food, candy, and sodas that a lot of others pitched in money to buy from the Post Exchange. We were on the second floor and worked our way down. The Drill Sergeant waited until we got all the way up to the window before shining a flashlight on us and saying, “What are you guys doing!” The food that everyone got to help pitch in to buy, we got to watch the Drill Sergeants eat it for us.
The final two questions below allow the interviewee share their voice and opinion on the issue “Connecting & Protecting” is addressing.
Do you feel like there is a disconnection between the military and the general public?
I don’t think there’s a big disconnect. I think it’s better since The Gulf War because people started to understand us more than when the Vietnam War occurred. However, a lot of people don’t know that there are troops stationed in more places than just Iraq or Afghanistan. They aren’t aware how much humanitarian things we do. They understand who we are – they just don’t understand all of what we do.
Do you have any ideas on how this issue could be fixed?
As far as some of the information the general population doesn’t know, I don’t think the military likes to advertise it. It might piss people off because the bigger mind people, like the president and congressmen, don’t inform the public enough, so people start questioning everything that the military does. I’m sure there’s certain reasons why they do what they do. But I think it would help if they would inform them a little bit more. I think more people need to research more about the military.