Take 5 with Jonina Young

By FORSCOM Public AffairsJune 3, 2024

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

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Most teenagers have zero clue what they want to be when they grow up, and “adulting” after high school is scary as heck! It'd be so much easier if we could live with our parents the rest of our lives and money grew on trees. Why? Because teenage shenanigans are definitely more fun than the drudgery of a 9-5 job and real responsibility. Sometimes though, a teenager with a strong sense of directional instinct knows exactly what they need to do in life, and they follow that instinct right into an Army recruiting office.

I’m Mikie P, and welcome to this edition of Take 5 where I laughed entirely too much with Jonina Young, a retired Warrant Officer 3, who served 20-years on active duty, and continues to serve as an Equipping Program Manager for FORSCOM G-2. So, buckle-up and settle-in to learn how this amazing lady morphed from a mouthy teenager into a strong woman who now “adults” responsibly.

Jonina (pronounced Joe-Nina,) is someone who seems nice enough, but if you’re astute, you’ll see a twinkle in her eye that tells you underneath it all, she definitely puts the “S” in smart and sassy. She’s also very self-aware.

“I was a solid “C” student in high school,” she said, laughing. “I think I was just bored though, and knew college was not gonna be good for me!”

I can definitely relate to the disillusionment of the whole high school scene and teachers who droned on about mundane stuff we had zero interest in. "Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?"

Hanging with your peeps is just comfortable, so when Jonina’s friends said they’d joined-up with organizations that gave them cool stuff like free college money, she was surprised.

“I was like, what’s that all about? They said they were joining the service, would serve four years and then get all this money for college, and I said, I can do that!”

She took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and scored very high. A recruiter listed the jobs Jonina was qualified for, and she was very curious about what a 33 Tango did. (It had nothing to do with dancing in case you were wondering.)

“I watched a video, saw soldiers in the field with trucks and computers, and I was hooked,” she said. “I was excited to be a Tactical Electronic Warfare Systems Repairer.”

She was only 17 at the time, so her dad had to sign to let her join. Jonina told him she was going into Intel, and that’s all he needed to know as he too, had worn the Army uniform along with her uncle and grandfather. As country singer Hank Williams Jr. used to croon, “It’s a family tradition.”

After basic and Advanced Individual Training, Jonina’s first assignment was Korea, and it was there she questioned her choice to wear combat boots. Being far from home coupled with her smart mouth and tendency to question authority, she started to get into trouble.

“People would tell me to do things, and I’d say, “I’m not doing that. That’s just dumb and you’re an idiot!”

No one wanted to deal with her, and it got so bad, she was tossed from one section to another like a bad Christmas fruitcake. One NCO stepped-up though, took a risk, and completely changed Jonina's life.

“Sgt. Parrish Henderson was my squad leader, and instead of labeling me as a problem, he said I was “his” problem," she said. “He smoked me so badly once in a PT disciplinary session, I could barely stand, but he believed in me when no one else would."

Under Henderson's tutelage, Jonina inevitably grew up and was inspired to apply for warrant officer school. That meant she'd need a warrant to vouch for her during the boarding process, but she didn't know a single one.

“I went to a fellow Soldier and said I needed a sponsor. I was referred to CW4 Joe Tranfaglia,” she said. “He ended up being my person, helped me get my packet together, and I want to thank him again for helping a total stranger!”

Her first assignment as a warrant? Korea. Again.

Funny though, how life sometimes gives you do-overs for a reason, and her second tour there was very different. Jonina had become a confident leader who inspired others in a multitude of ways as the years and her career progressed.

“Three and a half years with 3/1 AD at Fort Bliss, was the hardest assignment I’d ever had,” she said, “but serving in a Brigade Combat Team bonds you, and three of the people I served with there became warrants.”

Despite all her initial career challenges, Jonina's done amazing things, and as a DA Civilian, was aptly named the 2024 recipient of the U.S. Army's Dorothe K. Matlack Award for Excellence in Military Intelligence. That's pretty darn inspirational for a sassy, smart-mouthed teenager who inevitably grew up and learned that actual "adulting" isn't such a terrible thing after all.

Thanks for your service to FORSCOM, Jonina, and readers? Please visit an Army recruiting station or check out civilian jobs with FORSCOM to learn more about serving in Army Intelligence if Jonina’s story inspires you. For more info on U.S. Army Forces Command, check out our FORSCOM LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/us-army-forces-command-fedeforscom/.

Join me again for another conversation blog with a FORSCOM team member who loves what they do and encourages you to join the family. Till then, take care, Be All You Can Be At FORSCOM, and don’t forget to “Take 5.”