OKEECHOBEE — Dillon Jones grew up in Okeechobee and joined the Navy right after he graduated from high school in 2013. “I decided it would be the best way to get out of town and go see some stuff,” he laughed. He signed on for six years and shipped out in 2014. He went to boot camp at Great Lakes in Chicago and was there for a couple of months before he was sent to Charleston, S.C., for more training. His first year was split between Chicago, Charleston and San Diego.
Originally, he was to be trained as a nuclear technician, a machinist mate, but then he changed his job to sonar technician. He stuck with that throughout his six years in the military. He spent about a year in San Diego and then about four years on a boat in Hawaii before he got out in February 2020. The first year was training.
Most of the time on the boat was spent out in the middle of nowhere out around Hawaii or San Diego, he said. He was deployed to the Middle East and they hit Guam, Singapore, Thailand, Bahrain and Oman. They also patrolled the Persian Gulf a lot, he said. They went back and forth escorting carriers and things like that to keep the Straits open, because the Iranians are always threatening to close off the Strait of Hormuz, which would choke us out of most of our oil. “That was 90% of the job over there,” he said. “It gets dangerous over there, so we would also escort ships.”
He was a sonar tech, which means primarily hunting submarines, but that job is done over by China. In the Middle East, he was part of the crew-served weapons. “We would man the machine guns, sort of make sure the Iranian boats don’t get too close. There would be four of us around the boat on all sides, because they simulate attack runs, driving at you real quick, and you never know when they will finally attack.” If they got too close, the Navy would send a helicopter out with a machine gun on it and throw the door open. That would drive them off.
The first half of the deployment was spent in the Middle East supporting operations, but the second half, they went to Thailand and Singapore. Then they were given a mission to go over and spy on Chinese submarines. There, they used the sonar which he described as like a big microphone on the bottom of the ship. “We just listened in to see what we could find, engine sounds, stuff like that.” The majority of his job was to collect data. Right now, the Chinese are not sending submarines all over the world, but we still want to have good data on them, he explained. “Just in case someone ever finds something out in the wild, so to speak.”
Jones was able to go ashore in all the countries he mentioned and said they were all cool countries. “Thailand is a Navy favorite, because it is the party port,” he laughed. “Bahrain is kind of boring. Oman is the big one. We weren’t really excited to stop there, because nobody knew anything about Oman, but they are very proud of their country, and they take care of it. It’s very, very clean. They have big forts built into the cliff sides, that you wouldn’t even know were there unless you were told to look at them, because they are colored the same as the rock. I’d say my favorite port was Oman. It was just beautiful.” He went on to explain that the architecture is beautiful because they have a strict building code there. “Singapore was nice, too, but it was more nice if you were a millionaire. It’s a rich man’s playground.” They visited a Universal Studios there. He said it was smaller than the one in Orlando, but they still enjoyed it. Some of them were afraid when they went to the Middle East, because they had never been there before, and “you hear all these things about Muslims, but they were some of the nicest people I ever met. They were genuinely happy to see us,” he said.
“The Navy was fun while it lasted. I went all over the United States, too. I got to take a lot of road trips.”
Jones recommends at least looking into the military if you are graduating from high school and not sure what you are going to do with your life. He said his niece, who just graduated, is joining the Navy like he did. “I know it’s not for everyone, but I would recommend checking into it at least. If you join the military, and you don’t act stupid, you can set yourself up. Go talk to a recruiter, or better yet, go talk to someone you know who has been in the military.”
After he was discharged, he got a job doing something very similar. He works as an analyst testing the systems the Navy uses, and if the sailors don’t know what they are doing, he gives them some training, teaching them how to use it. He and his girlfriend Mary live in Hawaii.