CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
One Marine’s decision to enlist took him from an icy landscape above the Arctic Circle to the dust-covered deserts of Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Lawrence Jones, a native of Noatak, Alaska, is a member of the Inupiat people. Only the town’s gravel runway and the surrounding waterways provide access to the rest of the world.
Jones began the process of becoming a United States Marine with a phone call to a recruiter 400 miles away in Fairbanks, Alaska. He had to endure numerous 600-mile-long flights to Anchorage, Alaska through treacherous snow storms and arctic winds to complete the recruitment process.
Today a mechanic in Afghanistan, Jones is charged with maintaining the vehicles utilized by Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, which conducts aviation ground support for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) serves as the aviation combat element for the southwestern regional command of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
Growing up, Jones said his fondest memories involve trudging through the snow and ice of his home, rifle in hand, hunting moose, caribou and grizzly bears with his grandfather.
Jones said his relationship with his grandfather, who was a first sergeant in United States Army, inspired him to enlist.
“I wanted to show my grandfather that I was strong like him,” said Jones.
He has traded his old hunting rifle for a wrench to maintain humvees, mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and fire trucks. These vehicles provide the ground assistance for Marine Corps aircraft in their mission of supplying aerial support to ground troops.
In his Alaskan home the comfortable temperatures of summer give way to a winter with only 15 minutes of sunlight and temperatures reaching 40 degrees below zero.
Jones’ work days in Afghanistan hover around 90 degrees, luckily for him the Afghan nights grow colder in the final months of the year.
Living in Alaska has taught Jones to do the most with what he has. Jones worked tirelessly chopping wood, hunting and working to help his family. Doing more with less is the spirit of mission accomplishment for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan.
“When I miss home I remember three sights that always bring me joy,” said Jones. “ I think of seeing a red sun dart across the horizon at 3 a.m., how the full moon lights up the sky during the months of darkness and the dancing colors of the northern lights.”
“When I call home, I do not talk, I just listen,” said Jones. “Before they hang up they tell me how proud they and our town are of me for being here.”
After returning to the states, Jones said he looks forward to having more experiences to learn from, but like his grandfather he will one day return to his frozen homeland.
“The young kids are going to ask me about the military,” Jones said. ”I will say you will travel far and see many things.”