By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (Oct. 05, 2001) -- After nearly 30 years of military service, participation in two wars, and well over a year of their life spent airborne, most people would be ready to hang up their uniform and call it quits.
Master Airloadmaster (warrant officer equivalent) Cassy Jones, 101st Squadron, VC-10 Training Flight, has no intention of quitting. She has been with the Royal Air Force for 28 years and has some 8,500 hours flying time under her wings.
"And I hope I do my 10,000 hours before I get out of the service," said Jones. She has 8 more years to reach her goal, which she claims is plenty of time.
Jones is an airloadmaster by trade. She deployed here with her unit in support of Operation Northern Watch.
While in Turkey, she served mainly aboard the VC-10 refueler aircraft, where she works as a steward.
"My job here is to look out for any passengers we have aboard and, if there is an emergency, to help them out. I also feed the crew and passengers as well," said Jones.
Serving up egg and bacon sandwiches to the flight crew is not her primary job though.
"My principal job aboard cargo aircraft is as a loadmaster," she explained. "The loadmaster is the weight and balance expert. We make sure the aircraft takes off within the center of gravity."
When at her home station, RAF Brize Norton, Jones teaches others how to do these jobs.
"What I do is instruct," said Jones. "When people come through the system, if they have not done the air crew job before as either a loadmaster or a steward, or if they come from another aircraft, I am in charge of the small training cell that teaches them. We actually do the flying training for any loadmasters and stewards."
Jones has been an instructor for some five and a half years.
Service is not mandatory in the RAF, but Jones left school at around 20, worked for a bit, and then joined the RAF. She says the family was excited with her move.
"They thought it was great. When I first qualified in my other job my parents came to my initial passing out parade [similar to pass and review.] I was just a little young girl with dark hair," said Jones. Her initial job in the service was in an administrative position. "And then they came to my brevet presentation, when I got my wings. They thought that was great as well."
It was about 1980 when Jones first went airborne. She's been all over the world, which fit in neatly with her original plan.
"I joined up to travel mainly. I have seen many countries and some great people," said Jones. "I've been to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, India, the Caribbean, Alaska and Iceland. There are many more places I want to go, but I have been really lucky."
At one point, she had the honor of flying with England's greatest distinguished visitor.
"I flew with the Queen," said Jones. "She was going out to Guyana. We also took her to Nassau in the Bahamas and to Belize. I was in the front galley with the stewards. I met her [the Queen] and had to curtsey as well and present her with a pen and stuff like that. My mother was very proud. She is very patriotic, pro-monarchy."
Jones has seen the hard side of the military as well. She has been part of the campaign in the Falklands War, she flew cargo missions during the Gulf War, she did her part in enforcing the no-fly-zone over Northern Iraq, and she realizes recent events in New York City may take her to even more conflict.
"Well, we are on the knife-edge of some sort of war," said Jones, "that has been made very clear. It could have been London. We have seen terrorism for years; we have seen it in our own country. This is not new to us."
Despite the possibility of seeing more conflict during her career, her outlook remains positive.
"Every country needs a military force - probably more so now than ever before with the terrorism we have," Jones said. "It is important now to just control the problems we have in the world. And being in the military, people play a part in that. You know if I have to go fly with a crew somewhere, so be it, that is what I am there for. Until somebody says training stops, I will continue doing my training."