JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., –
Everyone’s been asked, “Why did you join the Air Force?” More often than not, Airmen will have a story as unique as their fingerprint as to why they joined.
Staff Sgt. Eric Jones, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal technician, is no different. Except he has to answer a couple of different “whys” before he can say why he joined the Air Force, after taking a different journey to get where he is today.
“My dad was in the Army. Him talking about his experiences and the traveling we did as a family made me want to do it,” the Slidell, Louisiana native said. “He and old war movies, when I was growing up, made me want to join the Army.”
Jones’ journey in the military started when he was young, before he even got out of high school, he joined and went to basic training at the age of 17. Jones was in the Army for several years before the Air Force was a thought.
“When I was 19, I decided to go active duty,” Jones said. “I was active duty for a little over four years before I got out and decided to give college a try. I was in the Army National Guard until 2011 and then I completely got out for about four years. That’s when I decided to join the Air Force.”
Although the Air Force wasn’t his first branch of choice when he decided to re-enlist, the job they could offer him was.
“I tried to go back in the Army but it was during the time when they were downsizing. They were really strict on who they would take for prior service,” Jones said. “I tried for about a year to get in and they wouldn’t let me. So I talked to an Air Force recruiter. They said they’d let me in but only for specific jobs. That’s when I put in my package for EOD and TACP and EOD was the only one that accepted me so here I am.”
Jones had a similar high-intensity job while in the Army but it can’t match what he’s doing as an EOD tech now in the Air Force.
“When I first joined the Army, I was a mechanic but when I switched over to the National Guard, I was infantry,” Jones said. “I like adrenaline rushes, stuff to challenge me mentally and physically. One reason why I switched to infantry and tried to go cavalry was my natural affinity towards high-adrenaline situations. Now EOD in the Air Force provides the adrenaline.”
Being a husband and father of two, Jones notices one specific difference between the Air Force and the Army.
“One difference is the Air Force is more family oriented,” Jones said. “Often times the mission came before everything else in the Army, at least that’s the way it was while I was in. It has probably changed a little bit since then.”
By being able to choose EOD when joining the Air Force, Jones was afforded the luxury of having a job matching the skills he has. Providing a full spectrum of skills requiring good physical endurance and an equally strong mental capability.
“You can’t just be a meathead who is really strong, you have to be intelligent too,” Jones said. “I like that it tests me physically and mentally. I like the camaraderie we have, sort of like I had in the Army, whose team members have my back.”
With plenty of family influence from his retired Army staff sergeant father, Jones also draws inspiration from leaders within his current EOD shop at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Jones says a lot of NCOs and senior NCOs inspire him to learn as much as he can from them so he too can one day be an inspiration to younger NCOs and Airmen.
“There’s several guys in our shop who have proven themselves through several deployments,” Jones said. “Senior Master Sgt. Passerotti, Master Sgt. Leslie, pretty much everybody who’s been through deployments in our shop. We have so many and their records reflect their accomplishments.”
Passerotti, 628th CES EOD superintendent, who Jones mentions as one of his main mentors, relishes the fact Jones brings perspective from a different branch. He also said Jones’ transition into the world of Air Force EOD was flawless.
“EOD is a true joint community,” Passerotti said. “Eric, coming from an Army background, enhances our perspective. His background enables him to pass along the ‘why’ something is important when we are training for missions. I look forward to seeing him continue to grow and lead Airmen.”
Jones has no regrets when it comes to joining the Air Force and being a part of EOD. He said there are opportunities in his job now he didn’t have before.
“I’m glad I chose this career field, it’s definitely rewarding,” Jones said. “Everything is just so fully encompassing."