‘I am really proud they chose to serve’: Family boasts 3 generations of boom operators

Three generations serve in the Air National Guard
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 11:51 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WDAM) - As Veteran’s Day inches closer, one Mississippi family is beaming with pride over three generations of servicemembers.

If you want to keep up with the Joneses, you’d better be prepared for an adventure.

“I always wanted to fly,” said Retired Chief Master Sergeant Dan Jones, who lives in Richton. “So at the six-year point in my career, I took an incentive flight with the National Guard in Salt Lake City and they refueled an F-16 and a B-1 bomber.

“II was hooked at that point,”

Dan Jones recently joined WDAM 7 on a KC-135 tanker for the first time in 27 years. Just before he retired, his son, Joel, began following in his footsteps.

“That was kind of one of the highlights of my career,” Dan Jones said. “I got to pin his wings on him.”

Joining the military was never really part of Joel Jones’ plan when he was enrolled at what was once called Jones County Junior College in the 90s.

“I had not thought about being a boom operator,” said Joel Jones, who will soon be pinned Chief Master Sergeant, like his father.

“Never talked to dad about really what he did,”

At Key Field Air National Guard Base in Meridian, you can find Joel Jones and his 21-year-old son, Scott, who is also a boom operator.

“Whenever I was little, I would come out here and go to the (flight simulator) and he would let me get in there and make some contacts on the Sim and it was very cool,” Scott Jones recalled. “I knew that was what I wanted to do,”

Boom operators help refuel aircraft mid-air. It is vital for some long-range missions.

“What the tanker really does is extend the airplane’s capability so it can refuel in flight, omit the landing portion and they can just go on to their destination,” said Joel Jones.

The family has a running joke about their responsibility.

“We always joke we lay down and pass gas for a living,” Joel Jones said.

Birds of a feather may flock together, but military rules actually prevent Joel and Scott from flying together. The two still are able to talk on the base regularly.

“I never really knew how my dad felt with me following in his footsteps,” said Joel Jones. “I mean I knew he was proud of me. I did not really understand that fully until Scott took the oath,”

Both are part of Mississippi’s 186th Air Refueling Wing. Dan Jones couldn’t be more proud.

“He is a chief boom here at his unit and then next thing you know, grandson who wants to be a boom operator as well, ever since he was a kid following in dad’s footsteps,” Dan Jones said. “So, mission accomplished.”

Scott Jones recently returned to Mississippi after his first combat deployment. The 21-year-old has already been to Germany, Alaska, Spain, and Poland.

Any time he has questions, he has two generations of Cliff Notes. He admits, it’s hard to get together without talking shop.

“We talk a whole bunch about the job and papa said earlier, he could still get in the jet after 25 years and make a better contact, so a whole bunch of ribbing going on about that,” Scott Jones laughed.

Joel Jones quipped, “Yeah, probably not.”

But Dan Jones said, “Get me back in the aircraft.”

For these three Jones’ generations, the only thing that is up in the air is who is the better boom operator.

Each of them raised his hand.

As people across the country prepare to thank veterans for their service, the day is especially meaningful for this proud Mississippi family.

“They both have a servant heart. and to be in the military that is why you are there,” Dan Jones said. “You are there to serve. You serve our nation.

“So ,I guess as much as I am proud of them becoming a boom operator, because that is what we spent all our time on being a boom operator, I am really proud they chose to serve.”

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