Ohio National Guard News

179th AW's Jones takes reins as
Ohio Air National Guard state command chief

Story and photos by Airman Megan Shepherd, 179th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas A. Jones, the incoming Ohio Air National Guard state command chief, speaks to members of the 179th Airlift Wing during a luncheon Nov. 30, 2016, in Mansfield, Ohio. Prior to assuming his new position as state command chief, Jones was the 179th Airlift Wing command chief and superintendent of the 179th AW Base Honor Guard.

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas A. Jones (left), the command chief of the 179th Airlift Wing, speaks to a participant in the Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11, 2016, in downtown Mansfield, Ohio. (Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood, ONG)

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas A. Jones (right), the command chief of the 179th Airlift Wing, speaks to participants in the Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11, 2016, in downtown Mansfield, Ohio.(Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood, ONG)

CMSgt Smith


Chief Master Sgt. Thomas A. Jones, the incoming Ohio Air National Guard state command chief, participates in a color guard during a Veterans Day assembly Nov. 30, 2016, at Mansfield Christian School in Mansfield, Ohio.

MANSFIELD, Ohio (12/22/16) —Airmen of the 179th Airlift Wing gathered together at a luncheon in the dining facility here last month to say farewell to Chief Master Sgt. Thomas A. Jones, the wing’s command chief master sergeant, who was leaving the unit he had served with for more than 30 years. However, it was not a retirement party, but a celebration for Jones’ new job — as command chief master sergeant of the entire Ohio Air National Guard.

Jones begins his new job with the Dec. 22 retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Philip D. Smith, who had served as state command chief since January 2014. Now it is Jones who will be the principal enlisted advisor to the Ohio Air National Guard’s senior leadership and be responsible for influencing the health, morale and welfare of the organization’s nearly 5,000 enlisted personnel and their Families.

Jones started his military career in September of 1978 as an active-duty Marine in the 78th Aviation Flight Equipment. After his first enlistment contract was completed, he decided that being a career Marine wasn’t for him so he got out of the military and moved home to Lucas, Ohio. He worked in a factory and went to college for a little while. Jones said he swore he would never join the National Guard, however, after being out of the military for two years and making $5 an hour in a factory in Ashland, Ohio, he decided to check out the Guard unit in Mansfield.

Jones ended up enlisting in the Ohio Air National Guard in 1984 with the 179th AW Aerial Port Squadron. He spent just six months there before taking a full-time position in the Aircrew Flight Equipment section of the 164th Airlift Squadron where he would remain until 2006, when he took a position in the Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Jones said it can be easy to get comfortable with what you know and the position that you’re in. He faced some adversity when trying to branch out and apply for different positions within the wing, but persevered through the rejections until he found the position that was the right fit. “There was something better waiting for me because I didn’t hang my head when I didn’t get those jobs,” Jones said.

As a senior noncommissioned officer, Jones sat on the other side of many interviews, as part of an interview boards, and offered insight from his experience. “I know what it feels like to be told ‘no.’ You only get to make one person happy on an interview panel and to the majority you have to say ‘you didn’t get the job,’” Jones said. “I can look them in the eye and say, ‘I know how you feel, but keep your head up and keep trying.’”

Joining the 179th more than 30 years ago, Jones said that he never imagined he would become the wing command chief, let alone the command chief of the entire state of Ohio — the highest-ranking enlisted Airman in the Ohio Air National Guard. Jones should assimilate easily into his new role of state command chief, as his primary duty will be to take care of the enlisted Airmen of Ohio. For years, Jones has been stepping up and looking out for his fellow Airmen.

The Airmen of the 179th AW came to know Jones as the guy to go see when it was time to sew on the next rank. Sewing was one of the many skills the Marines taught him. Jones said when he began the side project, in the 1980s, he set the price at just $3 to sew the new stripes on and never raised it. The sewing service he offered allowed him to meet many Airmen across the base that he may not have met otherwise. People could count on him to help get their uniforms ready in preparation of their next promotion.

Jones has consistently shown his volunteer spirit and always gravitated towards taking on added responsibility. One of the things that helped him do that was joining the Base Honor Guard several years ago. As a member of the Base Honor Guard, he served his community at a variety of parades, ceremonies and events and got to know even more people. He also stepped up from that position and became the superintendent of the group.

“It was always my goal to be the best I could be and I never shied away from a leadership opportunity,” Jones said. Jones attributed some of his success to stepping out of his comfort zone by switching career fields. He said it can really broaden one’s scope. “I think you need to do things that take you out of your comfort zone in order to make you a better leader,” Jones said.

There are three attributes that Jones said he looks for in a person which can help that person be successful. The first is attitude. “I think anyone could have a successful career if they have the right mindset,” Jones said. “I can train anyone to do a job if they have a positive attitude.” The other two attributes are teamwork and respect. Jones explained how everyone depends on one another to get the mission accomplished, so everyone has to work together and treat each other right. A leader should never ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. It’s about leading by example, forming relationships and getting to know people.

“I want to give folks an example to look to, to see that you don’t honestly have to be somebody special to be the command chief. You just have to be dedicated and love what you’re doing, because I’m nobody special, that’s for sure,” Jones quipped.

Although now he will have the opportunity to meet Airmen all over the state, Jones said the thing he will miss the most about his position at the 179th AW is the people there. “This place is second to none — the attitude, the teamwork and the friendship. I’ll miss people coming in my office every day and saying ‘hi’ to me and walking around and seeing them, it’s my favorite part,” Jones said.

While his departure from the 179th AW is bittersweet, Jones said he isn’t too worried because with every transition he has made in his career, he has kept the friendships from his past positions and continued to build new relationships as he moved on. There will be new people, and probably some familiar faces, walking into his new office at the Maj. Gen. Robert S. Beightler Armory in Columbus.


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