GERMANY — This Soldier just celebrated her two-year Army anniversary and with it, came many firsts, including her first deployment and first time out of the country.
Spc. Phillicia Jones, a 25B or information technology specialist assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps, joined the U.S. Army for several reasons and in the short two years she has been enlisted, she’s confident she made a good choice. Jones, originally from Jacksonville, Florida, joined the Army as way to gain hands-on IT experience while earning her degree.
“I chose 25B based on my major and because I am interested in becoming a programmer,” Jones said.
Jones is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in cyber security and networking. While she had options to intern in the civilian world to gain necessary experience, Jones said she knew the Army could provide that and more.
“I knew that as a programmer and anyone interested in the IT industry, it’s better to gain experience while in school rather than waiting to graduate,” Jones said. “I knew the Army could give me the experience, and I will know for sure if this is what I want to pursue. If not, I could switch it up and still benefit from the Army in other ways.”
Like many Soldiers, Jones is using tuition assistance to pay for her undergraduate degree. The Army offers up to $4,000 a year in tuition assistance. Soldiers use Army IgnitED, an online platform, to create an education path and request tuition assistance from the Army.
“I am trying to build myself and to know the government is willing to pay for me and support me is nice,” Jones said. “The process is different than financial aid I’m used to using; it’s more simple.”
Jones also joined the Army to get out of her comfort zone and do things she wouldn’t otherwise — like jump out of airplanes. Jones agreed to go airborne when signing her contract because it came with a bonus. The Army has also helped her learn to place confidence in others, something she said she normally doesn’t do.
“The Army has helped me learn to be a bit more vocal,” Jones said. “It has also helped me to realize that I need to trust and depend on others, versus always being independent.”
Flashforward two years and Jones is now experiencing something completely different than jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft — her first deployment. Jones has been in Germany since June as part of Task Force Dragon, assuring our NATO Allies.
“Newbie here!” Jones joked. “This is my first everything. First time out of the country and first deployment.”
The day-to-day work Jones experiences is about the same as the day-to-day at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — where the XVIII Airborne Corps is based. She said anything IT related that comes to her help desk she and her teammates take care of.
“I feel honored to be part of Task Force Dragon,” Jones said. “I feel great knowing I am part of a huge mission that is trying to make things — society — better. I am blessed honestly, with this experience in general. I never expected myself to be in this position. Later on, being able to look back and think ‘man I was a part of this’ is incredible and an eye-opening experience. It makes me more appreciative at the end of the day.”
While Jones is focused on her work here, she is still making sure she plans for the future. Her goals include utilizing the Army’s Green to Gold program, where enlisted Soldiers can earn their degree at a four-year college and commission as an officer upon graduation.
“If my packet gets approved, I will stay in the Army for however long I can a build from there,” Jones said.