By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Growing up in the suburbs, Tech. Sgt. Michael Jones, 50th Space Wing Inspector General’s office wing exercise section chief, never thought he’d be working on a farm in his spare time.
After receiving a two-day notice he would deploy to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, in July 2018, and having his deployment changed from four months to nine months at one of the most secure detention camps at the station, Jones said he needed a break.
“I was doing detainee operations,” he said. “There were times where it got pretty stressful. I didn’t work with anyone I knew and I was put in charge of a shift full of E-4’s and above in the Army.”
When he returned, Jones said he started a new job, didn’t know anyone and felt lost.
“One of my friends told me about the farm and so I asked him if I could help out and ever since then we’ve been partners…it’s strengthened our friendship and we’ve seen the farm grow before our eyes,” he said. “I enjoy going out there, it gives me a sense of purpose. I’m taking care of something and it feels amazing.”
Jones and his friend take care of and feed the chickens, turkeys, goats and ducks at the farm daily.
“I don’t come from a farming background, so learning how to build stuff and interacting with the animals [is] rewarding,” he said. “I jumped in right when I got back, so there wasn’t really a gap and it really helped me acclimate to being back in the states and getting back to normal. I found myself clearing my head and it was de-stressing.”
Leadership can start at any level and can be learned at any time throughout an Airman’s career.
“The lessons I’ve learned from the farm have helped me lead,” he said. “I’ve learned a greater sense of responsibility. I’ve learned to listen better and that it’s OK to ask for help.”
Capt. Benjamin Christ, 50th SW IGs office exercise program manager and Jones’ supervisor, said Jones is an excellent worker and a great addition to the team.
“Jones handles any task thrown at him with ease and knocks it out of the park,” he said. “He’s a wonderful person to work with and always comes into the office with high spirits, motivated and excited to wear the uniform.”
As the wing exercise section chief, Jones is expected to help manage base-wide exercises that can involve thousands of people.
“He embodies the core values and lives up to the Airman’s Creed we all take when we put on the uniform,” Christ said. “He acts with integrity and puts the Air Force before himself.”
Christ said when Jones goes to the farm during his lunch break, he returns even more motivated than before he went.
“He’s an excellent example of the many ways we can find outlets to manage stress in our day-to-day lives,” he said. “The Air Force can be very busy with a lot of stressors pulling us in different directions, by finding your niche where you can decompress and unload stress, you can come back to your daily duties as a more resilient Airman.”
Although he said it can be overwhelming, Jones said he wouldn’t think about giving up on the farm.
“If I were to cut off the farm I’d have to find something to replace it and right now the farm is what’s driving my motivation to do better and be better,” he said. “It keeps my thoughts positive and it adds something to my routine that makes my day better. This farm is a part of who I am.”
Taking care of Airmen and families always is important and connecting with one another makes it possible.
“I went out of my comfort zone and found something I love,” he said. “Connect with different people around you, find out what they do to cope with things, what drives them and what their hobbies are because you might find yourself latching onto that. I never would have thought of raising animals but it’s helped me out.”
Interests or hobbies that help build resilience can strengthen Airmen and the force.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, Kaleth Wright, said, “If the foundation of readiness is training, then the core of what makes an Airman more lethal is resilience.”