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NEWS | Dec. 22, 2016

Career experiences help chaplain branch out

By Airman 1st Class Kevin West Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

A high school student, who wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life, became a foreign exchange student in Bolivia, South America where he met a special young lady. After graduation, he returned to the United States and enlisted in the Navy Nuclear Power program as an electrician in November 1989.

However, the Navy was not the last stop in his military career. U.S. Air Force Capt. Norman Jones, 628th Air Base Wing chaplain, has given more than two decades of military service to his country while serving in three different branches.

“Navy Nuclear Power Training and the bonus they offered was quite appealing,” said Jones. The bonus was a tremendous help in my plans to return to Bolivia to marry the lady I left behind.”

Following successfully completing nuclear pipeline training, Jones returned to Bolivia to get married. Jones and his wife Janeth, who have been married 25 years, began their involvement with church during his time as an instructor at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU).

"When I got out of the Navy, our relationship with the church continued,” said Jones. “Our roles and responsibilities grew and I eventually became a pastor at my own church. Being the pastor of a Spanish speaking congregation connects my foreign exchange experience, having learned Spanish, with my wife's heritage and culture.”

After serving on active duty in the Navy for more than eight years, Jones decided to separate. After a two and half year break he joined the Navy Reserve. However, just six months later and to free up time to finish school, Jones made another big transition and transferred into the U.S. Army Reserve.

During his time in the Army Reserve, Jones unit did not have a chaplain and was called upon at certain times to fulfill that role. This experience is what Jones says influenced him to converge his military and civilian lives. In 2011, Jones sought and obtained a commission in the U.S. Air Force and pursued active-duty chaplaincy. His experiences in the three different branches of service give him a unique perspective on the issues faced by a wide range of service members.

“I can sit with service members and identify with them in most cases,” said Jones. “I can say I have been where you are; I have walked in your shoes. I believe it gives me a better insight in certain situations and possibly a greater opportunity to connect on a personal level.”

Jones ability to connect with others has left a lasting impact on those he has worked with. In fact, in September 2016, his fellow servicemembers made him an honorary Navy chief petty officer.

"I cannot express enough what an honor and privilege it was to go through the "Chief's Season" with the NPTU and Naval Weapons Station chief selectees," said Jones.

For 23 years and counting, Jones has been a part of the military and has seen the changes that have taken place. He feels the changes have made the military a more professional organization.

"I'm very pleased with my life, my experiences and the three different branches of service I have served in,” said Jones. “They each have a different culture, different language. Some people say the military gets a little softer as time goes on. I think it just changes and becomes more professional actually. In the profession of arms, we are professionals in what we do. We want to demonstrate that while in uniform and in the community.”