News>Airman 'on deck' maintains strong ties to home
Sergeant Jones escorts her daughter, Taylor, to her first day of kindergarten in 2009 at Jeff Davis Elementary School in Biloxi. Mom and daughter stay connected through Skype twice a week and a steady diet of daily emails. (Courtesy photo)
Sergeant Jones stands ‘on deck’ outside the Office of Defense Representatives-Pakistan building in Bahrain, where she serves as NCO in charge of the Office of Defense Representatives–Pakistan liaison office to Navy Central Command. (Courtesy photo)
by Airman 1st Class Heather Holcomb
81st Training Wing Public Affairs
1/19/2011 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Master Sgt. Tonya Jones is one of the very few Airmen stationed in a sea of Navy blue.
Sergeant Jones, a command post specialty career development course writer for the 334th Training Squadron, arrived at a Navy base in Bahrain Sept. 28.
Seven days a week she shows up to work as the noncommissioned officer in charge at the Office of Defense Representatives-Pakistan liaison office to Navy Central Command.
Sergeant Jones said that the most challenging part of her deployment has been learning how to work with Navy and Marine Corps personnel.
"My sponsor told me I would be working on both the middle and upper deck," she said. "I assumed this meant I would be working on a boat. The next day when I went into work, I realized that the Navy calls the floors of a building the same as they do as if they were on a ship."
Her average day on deck consists of contingency planning and coordination between ODR-P and NAVCENT. She has a daily video teleconference with the Vice Admiral in charge of ODR-P to update him on current operations.
Deployments provide a unique opportunity for self improvement that daily life at home may not afford, and Sergeant Jones is taking full advantage.
After duty requirements for the day are completed, she does physical training for an hour, then spends most of the evening doing homework. Each semester she takes two classes towards her bachelor's degree in organizational management.
"I handle the stress of being deployed by staying busy with schoolwork and going to the gym daily," she said, "I also take several hours each week to relax and enjoy a book."
Sergeant Jones has also had the opportunity to live off of the installation. This has allowed her a chance to explore the local culture and enjoy the mild weather.
"Every other week, I go out to dinner with co-workers and we experience the local cuisine," she said.
Not only has Sergeant Jones aided the Air Force mission and improved herself as a person, but she says that her marriage has benefitted from this deployment as well.
She is married to Tech. Sgt. Matthew Jones, instructor of the basic instructor course with the 81st Training Support Squadron.
"My husband has been so supportive, and we communicate our feelings for each other more than we did when I was home," Sergeant Jones said.
Her husband said, "We took a lot for granted before she left and now we have learned the importance of expressing our true feeling about situations."
She takes advantage of modern technology to keep in touch with her family and friends back home. She said she is fortunate to Skype with her husband and their 7-year-old daughter, Taylor, twice a week and e-mails her husband daily. She also calls her parents every other weekend and stays in touch with her friends and the rest of her family via e-mail.
But at the end of the day, nothing beats a letter or package from home.
"It's tough being away, and receiving mail from family and friends really makes a difference,"Sergeant Jones said. "It always brightens my day when I receive a card from my husband and daughter."
She suggests that those about to deploy spend as much time with their loved ones as possible and to also pack a comfort item as a remembrance of home.
"Being deployed has definitely reminded me not to take simple things in life for granted," Sergeant Jones said.
"Tonya will always find a positive in every situation and that takes a strong person," her husband said. "Tonya never gives up and always strives to be the best at everything she does."