MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!

Capt Holly Jones Unveils the Chaplain's Perspective: Mental Health and More

November 08, 2023 Nathaniel Scheer Season 1 Episode 8
MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!
Capt Holly Jones Unveils the Chaplain's Perspective: Mental Health and More
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever felt like you need a friend in uniform? One who can provide both spiritual and mental support? Meet Holly Jones, a beacon in the military chaplaincy, who graces us with her wisdom and warmth this episode. Holly shares her journey, the ups and downs, and her most embarrassing moment, making for an entertaining and relatable conversation.

Our chat with Holly covers more than the battlefield and the chapel. It delves into the world of mental health and the resources she finds invaluable, like the Calm app, Brené Brown's 'The Gift of Perfection', and the Headspace podcast. Holly, with her unique perspective, enlightens us on the military's attitude towards vulnerability and resilience, and her intriguing comparison of a soldier to a rubber band and a paper plate will leave you thinking. 

But it's not all serious talk. We also discuss the diversity in the Air Force Chaplain Corps, the Women's Symposium and the Strong Bonds program, giving you an insight into the various opportunities and challenges in the chaplaincy. We wrap up with an exploration of the brain's response to anticipation and the importance of mindful moments, leaving you with some food for thought. Trust us, this episode with Holly is not just for those in uniform, it's got something for everyone! So, sit back, relax and let's journey together into the heart of the military chaplaincy.

Scheerious Positivity!

Nate Scheer:

Welcome to Mind Matters. I'm your host, nate Shear. If it's on your mind, it matters. I'm here today with Holly Jones, a wonderful chaplain, to talk to us about her career field today. Thanks for coming on the show, holly.

Holly Jones:

Thank you for having me.

Nate Scheer:

Okay, we're gonna jump into the admin the required stuff. We're gonna start off with your introduction. Please tell us your origin story.

Holly Jones:

You know, the origin story sounds more like a superhero. So I feel like I should tell you about the epic tale of when I was raised, where I was raised and then how something tragic happened and then, I rose from the ashes. So, yeah, I'm from New Orleans. The big easy, the awesomeness about us is, you know, we have Mardi Gras. So I grew up with that no, we weren't walking around flashing people, that was not us, that was the tourists that were there. But grew up there, born and raised four, three boys and I was the baby girl. I was raised with a single mom and my dad was mostly around. Cool guy, he's even better in adulthood, I promise. But we moved a lot. So joining the military was very fitting for me. I stayed in New Orleans until I turned 17, then moved to San Diego, california, finished high school, started college out there and then went to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, oklahoma.

Nate Scheer:

Is that because your family is?

Holly Jones:

military, so my mom married Navy. Yes, and he retired in San Diego.

Nate Scheer:

Oh nice.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, it was a good time so, and met hubs in the middle of nowhere, oklahoma.

Nate Scheer:

Nice, so you never know where you can find love.

Holly Jones:

It's true, I used to always look on airplanes.

Nate Scheer:

Oh, better than the bar, for sure they say library, but I guess airplanes right there.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, because they're now a captive audience.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, they're trapped. That's awesome. Okay, so we're going to jump into the warm up. As with any sport, you got to make sure your muscles are ready. You're warmed up, so we're going to start a little conversation and get this rolling. So first part of the warm up is what are your favorite mental health resources? Let's kick off this three part question. Want to hear about one app you're using, one book you recommend and one podcast you're listening to.

Holly Jones:

Oh, that's good stuff. Okay, so the first one, which was my resources, which was what?

Nate Scheer:

One app you're using an app.

Holly Jones:

Oh, so I? I'm exploring a new app and it is oh my goodness, you're making me figure it out. So calm is the one that everybody talks about, right? But then it was headspace. Someone just told me the depth of headspace, so I'm trying to dig into that one.

Nate Scheer:

One book.

Holly Jones:

Okay, so I just finished reading and running to the gift of perfection by Brené Brown. I love all of her books because she's constantly talking about vulnerability and allowing us to just finally stop taking ourselves so seriously. And podcasts I haven't been in Japan, I haven't touched my podcast in a while, so sorry.

Nate Scheer:

Sounds good. So, for the app and the book, what were some good takeaways from both of those, or what are some things that are drawing you back to those?

Holly Jones:

So I actually just finished teaching out of the book. We did a women's retreat and my portion was helping them connect to resilience, resiliency through spirituality or a spiritual resiliency right, whichever way you wanted to put it. It was still tying back to the understanding that there is a connection between us at all times and, whether you believe in a higher power or not, that we are connected as a people.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I like the idea of the vulnerability and I know we have a difficult time in the military. We're supposed to be strong and A type and fix everything and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and all that stuff. But it's definitely something I think it's not looked at correctly because it's looked at, I think, more on the weakness side, when really the resiliency to get through things and the next time or times that you see that thing, you're even stronger. So on a previous podcast we had our wonderful Laura on here and she used a reference I've never heard before. So I've always heard it as a rubber band. You got to bounce back, but I never really liked it. So hers was a paper plate. So the paper plate could be multiple paper plates, because you've experienced that before and now you know how to handle it. So your paper plate is now a little bit thicker. Or maybe you've done it so much you become an expert, so now the paper plate has become a plastic plate or a china plate or something like that. So you get to see how that is. And her example of the spaghetti on there on one ply is just going down for sure, but the spaghetti on the three ply is holding up, maybe enough to get to the table so that was really cool.

Holly Jones:

I like that.

Nate Scheer:

Cool. So the next one we got on here is what is the most embarrassing moment of your life so far.

Holly Jones:

I have so many. Oh, my goodness, my embarrassing moment, I would say so. I get this awesome opportunity to preach and one of the many times I was on a roll Just I'd walked away from my notes because I just knew my notes inside and out and I was getting louder and more animated and then my mind went blank and I literally couldn't regain the same momentum and same energy for the rest of the sermon. It just destroyed me. So, of course, for the next week, what was I thinking about? But that moment of me having to literally run back to my notes to pick up where I left off.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, did anyone talk to you or something afterwards?

Holly Jones:

It's Larry. He's gonna always be like Bay. What happened there? Don't talk about it.

Nate Scheer:

That's interesting. I was listening to a podcast from Simon Soneke and he was talking about that. He had one where he was up on stage, completely lost what he was talking about, took a long pause and it was open and said sorry guys, I completely lost where I'm at and then was able to kind of get back on track and salvage a little bit. But his main thing was one kind of owning it and saying, yep, sorry, I forgot. And then the other part was the reason for him being there, which I thought was really cool. So he was there to help people and push out a good message and positive vibes. It wasn't to sell something or make money or whatever, and so afterwards people were able to talk to him like yeah, I've done that before it happens or whatever, and kind of connect to him. So it's a time where I think all of us have done it and so maybe not that specific thing, but I've had awkward situation.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, I try to be open now and say last week I was preaching and they gave me a music stand instead of the pulpit. I don't know why, but the music stand I'm short, but I wasn't that short and it refused to stand up higher. And so I just finally said this is a bear of a music stand, give me two seconds, everybody. And then finally it moved and they were like oh good, you know you can hear their sigh of relief as well.

Nate Scheer:

All been there, all people Cool. Well, that's some great stuff. So I heard you have a question for me.

Holly Jones:

Yes, yes. So I appreciate again that you are even doing this. It's very important for not just the military, but mental health in general of all people. So I'm curious what was your perspective of mental health growing up versus what it is now?

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, so I think the biggest thing for me is the biggest change is it's a process. So that's something that's super important and that's kind of one of the reasons it's started, as in the pilot episode I talked about my grandma and things like that, and her not being in the world and being able to provide the light that she had just really disappoints me, and not being able to feel like she could talk about it from a different generation. We still have the stigma now, but even more so we as kids, grandkids, didn't even know until she had her incident. So I think the biggest thing is just that ongoing process and trying to get through it. I feel like the way it's looked at for a lot of times is negative, which is really odd to me. I was listening to another podcast their day and they were talking about how, when you talk about physical strength, people are there and they're cool about it. They're like, oh, you're working out what sets you doing, how are you getting after it? Can I come and run with you? It has this positive connotation to it. When you talk about physical health, you talk about your New Year's resolution and it's like, oh cool, how's that going? But if you say mental health, automatically it's oh, you have an illness, you have a deficiency, like the words that go along with mental health. None of those are positive. Adhd, add, whichever one you want to say, it's a deficit, it's a problem, it's not something you're working on, and so I think that's probably the biggest change for me is trying to get back to not back to to making it a standard where your physical health and your mental health are similar. You do a physical each year, you're checking on things and you're working on things as you go. I think I'm kind of rambling, but to try to get to the bottom line of your question, I think the difference is you work on it all the time and before you need it is probably the biggest thing as a kid and like, oh yeah, you go to mental health, you go to counseling, you go to these things Again, even counseling just saying it still has like a negative connotation, like why can't you go and talk to somebody? So, I think that's probably the core of when I was a kid to now. It should be this ongoing. I can chat with people, I can vent, I could swing by and talk to my counselor or my you know therapist. Without that, oh, you have to go see your therapist. What's wrong with you? So, yeah, I think that's it, without running too long.

Holly Jones:

That's good, yeah, thank you.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, so we're going to move over and start touching on your AFC Air Force specialty code. So can you give us a brief? Probably going to be pretty difficult because we do so many different things. Right, but a brief overview of your career field from someone that does it every day. Not the Google version.

Holly Jones:

Yes, so my non-Google definition of my job. So I get this awesome opportunity because I'm actually a true North chaplain. So I was once at the chapel reporting at the wing and doing all of the wing level things. But the difference is, here at True North, I get the opportunity to serve a specific group and live amongst you guys. That's my favorite part. My day-to-day is literally huddles, because I'm at the med group. Right, not every group has a huddle, they normally have once a week meetings, but our huddles are that awesome touch point where we get to see everybody first thing in the morning and see what everybody's doing that day, and I even get to let y'all know what I'm doing and if you will see me around in your area. From there it's meetings, all calls. I get to brief leadership and give them resiliency moments. Even better than that, I get to take flights out. I got to start the initiative of excuse me, the flight morale events, and so that just allowed me to encourage leadership to let their individual flights to leave for the afternoon and have lunch and a morale time with me. So team building, zip, lining round one, you name it. It's been a lot of fun. And from there, retreats for families and marries and it's a lot of fun. The easy it's an easy button of taking care of people for me, and then on the other side it's counseling, memorial services, marriages, baby dedications. I still get to do my religious, important aspects of it as well.

Nate Scheer:

Awesome, that's good stuff. So got a question. I think you probably kind of touched on it, but just to expand a little bit more what are the things that you really enjoy about being a chaplain?

Holly Jones:

I love serving Back in the day. I used to meet people on their worst day and I didn't know that it could be what it is today, Living amongst my peoples. I meet them on their best day. They tell me oh, I'm so glad I ran into you, I just found out I'm getting promoted, I got my line number, I just found out I'm pregnant. I just got proposed to. I get to be included in those moments too. Now that's my favorite part. If they're having a blah day, I miss it because I don't know their personality before. Now I'm learning their personality and I can tell if they're sitting in the front desk and serving the people they're still saying hey, how are you doing? Thank you for coming, It'll be just a few minutes. Here's your clipboard. Just by the tone of their voice I can hear something's wrong. After the patient walks away, I get to walk up to them and say what's going on? You need a side moment with me.

Nate Scheer:

That's a good point because I think that has brought up a lot of times in the military. Throughout different stuff they say keep an eye and make sure you don't notice anything different. But if you don't know, then you don't know what is different. Because I think a lot of times we associate the negative aspect again, like quiet, reserved and whatnot. But it could just as easily be super hyper and something for someone that's more introverted to be more odd than now. They're hyper when they shouldn't be, but most people be like oh yeah, that's cool, they're coming out their shell. Yeah, but you wouldn't know if you don't know the baseline. So that's a good point. You got to know people on the everyday and I'm glad you're getting to see the positive, because I feel like that kind of goes back to me talking about mental health. You get to see the ups and downs and the progression of things instead of just the lows. That's kind of draining if you're only seeing the lows. I always wonder how that worked. I remember I talked to my old chaplain. He had deployed Chaplain Ronald. He's a great guy. But I'd asked him like how does that work in the deployed environment where you're the chaplain, absorbing all the negative and all the things that are going on? So what are some resources you use to make sure you're not always drained? Now you get the positive and the negatives, but if you're in a normal thing and you were in all the negatives, how do you kind of get through that absorbing everyone else's lows?

Holly Jones:

I think that's where my self care comes in, right, if I'm practicing, then I'm able to do, I'm able to receive, and then the other thing is literally not taking their stuff off and allowing them to drop it off, right? Um, I think everybody visualizes people bringing their luggage to me and leaving their luggage as they walking out the door. What I like to my visual is more of I let them open it up. They show me what they want to show me. That's in their suitcase, right, they might just show me their toothbrush. Some people will show me everything, um, and then that's when I want to know what do you want? What's your focus today? Because we can't talk about all of it, right. What's your focus today? What's going to get you back in the fight? Because, do you want to go home? Because we could talk about you, talk to your leadership, about getting you a home, not home back in the States. I mean, literally take a brain break, right? But or do you All? Right, no, chapter, I'm good, okay, so what do you want to talk about? And then they take out that one shirt that meant the world to them and now it doesn't, and they don't know why. You know something like that, and so allowing them to just put something on display for that moment, discuss it. We go back and forth, as they allow me, right, and then they fold it back up, put in their suitcase, in the name, on their way.

Nate Scheer:

That's interesting. Yeah, it's interesting to sometimes the things you would never think about. I had a moment a year ago, two years ago, I forget what it was, but it was here and I was driving to work. I had a older legacy which was an automatic and I got my captain car, my sweet Forrester STI, and I was back in a stick shift and I was driving to work and I don't have outward emotions too often, but this particular day my eyes were swelling pretty bad and you know things were. water was coming out of places and whatnot, and it was really interesting because it wasn't a profound or big moment but it was a reflection back to my grandpa that lived with my grandmother, that had her lost the mental health and he would take me out and we would sit on old, dusty roads in this old disgusting, beat up Toyota pickup and start and stop in first gear Probably over a hundred times, 200 times, I'm not sure, because you know. Second, third, they're not too hard once you get going, but that initial first, that initial role is rough, so he honed in on that and we sat there forever, and so it was just one of those reflections of something that now brings me joy. I love shifting through the gears I never would have had if grandpa didn't want to sit in some road with me, and so it's just kind of a reflection back on both of them just being outstanding, people that did things that were difficult or not fun because they were the right thing to do. You know, did they have to sit with me? No, we could have, probably. You know, eat an ice cream or done something more fun or whatever, but gave me those, those life skills, which is a really great.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, that's good.

Nate Scheer:

Next question is what are some of the aspects of being a chaplain that are less desirable? So you got people out there, they're listening to this or like oh, I really want to know about being a chaplain the good and the bad. So we've kind of highlighted the enjoyable things. What about less desirable?

Holly Jones:

So the good, the bad, the ugly, huh.

Nate Scheer:

They want to hear it.

Holly Jones:

I don't want to say it.

Nate Scheer:

It's just expectation management. Oh, absolutely so they know.

Holly Jones:

So, interestingly enough, during the time that D and I, D and I right, that's what diversity and inclusion started coming to light in the world. But the Air Force remember they started doing an inventory, and thus each individual AFC seemed to start doing the same thing. Our chief of chaplains was no exception. He too was just chomping at the bits to find out what, what was out there for his people. Of course, being a two star general, I imagine people lie to you all the time.

Nate Scheer:

Everything's peaches under my care, sir, like we heard, with my evil, no, I'm not going to listen to you right now.

Holly Jones:

This is live. And so the our two star put one of our first African American female 06 chaplain to work and had her build a team and do their research. I think they reached out to all of the minorities I was one of them and they ask pertinent questions. And so when our chief of chaplains read the results after this is during 2020, they usually had wing chaplain symposiums where they'd all fly to Washington DC, sit amongst themselves and pow wow. This time, because it was 2020, they did a virtual and invited everybody to watch, which was so. It meant the world to me, because I just always wanted to know what they were talking about. I'm nosy. And he said, all right, this is the portion. He said all right, now that we're done with business, we have new business. Y'all have seen the climate of the country and it's concerning because now we're seeing also that this is being reflected heavily in the Air Force how promotion rates were lopsided with colors, how disciplinary action was lopsided with colors. Right, he said so. I was curious, of course, because I had to report to our leadership here. Our four star what is the Air Force chaplain corps look like, and so the he read the facts that we gave and the questions that weren't moving before he started reading, started filling up and, mind you, at that time we could see the name of the chaplain who was writing it. It wasn't a response to one and two, and three teams is very open, right, that's true. Teams shared exactly who was saying what and when I started seeing the true colors of some of these people. That might be time refer them or retire, because we are not the same Air Force that we used to be. They wanted to know what scale of questions did you use? What scientific resources did you type tap into to actually gather this information? They're going to minimize they immediately at the end of the day I didn't understand why they didn't know that people were hurting, that we're wearing the same cross, the same religious patch that's distributed to the same people in the 51, 52 are series, right, I don't care if they were a R1, r2, r3, our staff, whatever that ones looks like.

Nate Scheer:

For, yeah, I think one thing that's hard for people to understand, especially so villains, I mean quite a few things, but one of the most is the United States military and the Air Force, which is a shred out of the US population. So sometimes with the core values and things like that they believe us to be like near perfect or you know not the general population and we should be held to a higher standard, but in a lot of cases it is just the exact people that are in the United States. So you know some good and some Not good, but yeah, that's unfortunate. I know in my time as a flight commander, working through some of those leadership roles. One thing I try to keep in mind is a person feels something and if they feel it, they feel it and that's the end of it. So I know, sometimes from my particular background however I was raised sometimes I don't understand, but that a feeling is a feeling and that's where it stops A person once they feel it, that's, that's it. It is a truth. At that point you can't disprove or say not, the right person responded or whatever they were trying to do. That's pretty unfortunate. That happened. If people are feeling it, then it's a truth at that point. You cannot like the truth because you don't like the ugliness, you see, but that doesn't make it not a truth, that is unfortunate. You have anything else you want to touch on the less desirable.

Holly Jones:

I guess my closing is for that. One is just the, the understanding that your career is your career. No one's going to fight for it except for you. Right, that is definitely true.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I came from the reserve world. I am a.

Holly Jones:

I am a person who is a person, who is a person who is surrounded by that. Taking away is not what I assumed by A Little Wolf. You are not like a person who is just trying to steal it. At the beginning of my life I placed husk to트�ment on the internet and everything started up. But then people started to share their own idea about their interests and financial situation Because they were capable of anyone. Thatように was very complex to be focused. When you come to active duty, none of that is an issue. And then I got to my first duty station and wasn't put up for one award. But when the Colonel, the 06 of the base, the commander, came into the chapel to specifically point in my wing chaplain's face and ask I see her more than I've ever seen you. Why don't I see any awards coming across my desk?

Nate Scheer:

Well, at least he identified.

Holly Jones:

He did.

Nate Scheer:

Not good that I got to that point, oh yeah.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, so I left my first assignment no awards.

Nate Scheer:

Dang.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, too late so.

Nate Scheer:

Okay, let's flip back to a slightly more positive note.

Holly Jones:

Let's do it.

Nate Scheer:

Let's talk about what are some unique opportunities that your specific career field presents Some trainings, symposiums, what's going on where someone would love to get involved in some of this stuff?

Holly Jones:

That's cool. So I just came back from the women's oh goodness, how was it phrased the female chaplain, women's chaplain 50th military symposium, something like that. It was all the women in all branches of the militaries that are chaplains. We came together to celebrate 50 years of finally women entering service.

Nate Scheer:

Nice.

Holly Jones:

So what's funny is that when that came about, the Marine Corps had just celebrated 247 years not even 250, right, 247, they were celebrating. And then they said, yeah, and here's the women's symposium, women's chaplain symposium, 50 years. And so I was like that's very, very interesting. I'm only 40 something, so that means that it took a long time, long time. So anyway, I thought that was really cool. It was a lot of fun to actually talk to Navy, because they covered Navy. Those Navy chaplains cover Marines. Of course the coasties weren't there represented, sadly, but the Army were there and naturally treated the chaplain, the Air Force chaplain, like you know, like we're awesome A lot of chair force jokes A lot of chair force jokes, but that was just one opportunity. I believe that the newest goodness opportunities are coming about through strong bonds. Right now we're getting the opportunity to get all of our chaplains. Last year's initiative was to get all the chaplains at least one to two trainings. This year they said take the trainings, here's the money, go train, and so I'm really excited about that. I've done adventure, love adventure and learned how to just take care of singles in excuse me, singles marries, blended families. Like that's just learning so much yeah.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely, that's awesome. So are those certifications, trainings, what are those considered? Because you mentioned strong bonds and a few others. Are those acronyms or companies?

Holly Jones:

So strong bonds seems to be an umbrella for, for instance, five love languages. I got that one, franklin Covey. He's the five effective leader.

Nate Scheer:

Have an effective leader.

Holly Jones:

There we go effective, but this one teaches you effective leadership, effective families, effective, yeah, it just takes you on a whole new level that you could get certified in. And then another one is got your back and oh, it's another one that I love for single airmen it's and, yes, you get certified in these things. It's a week, three days to a week, training and we get on there virtually with the company. But the strong bonds it actually came from the idea through the army, and so they did it first. We begged for it for years and they just continue to tell us your Air Force, their army. But finally, so grateful for our last Chief of Chaplain, chaplain Shaik. He just had such a vision and he brought that to the forefront.

Nate Scheer:

That's awesome. I'm super glad my. You know, one of the things I love is professional development. Not even professional development, more personal development. I love when people are just learning and making things better. So it sounds like as a chaplain. You're almost like lifetime learning. You can just keep learning these things. It keeps your mind ready and I think that keeps us healthy. So that's some great opportunities. I'd like to shift over and ask you another question what's a common misconception about your job?

Holly Jones:

That we're all kind, we're all caring, we're all the same, we are all not all alike- so what are some personal stories that can demonstrate that you seen some, some not nice ones? Oh my gosh, you know we got to remove names or you know so I can give an older Lieutenant Colonel when I was first coming in I was a chaplain candidate and I went to a non-name base and did 30 days of a tour and he was nice to me and our interactions. But I found out through not the grapevine, through the actual person that was being harassed, that this individual continued to torture the African American female chaplain that was at that base for her entire time. So it was very interesting to hear that that existed and so I figured that was a one-time thing. And then I met another lady who was a major and she was, I guess she'd had a rough career and she was separating. And so I was like, oh, ma'am, are you, you know, are you separating to go do something more awesome? And she was like no, it's because they suck. I never heard the chaplain say that before, and so that's what I've run into literally people being tortured on the job by a specific leader, someone that was given the rank of trust, and that's the difficulty, sorry.

Nate Scheer:

I wonder with that, not that we could unpack that right now, but I wonder if that is always in a person or if it's something that grows with the stripes on the shoulder or the things on their chest or whatnot on that boldness, or does it just exemplify what was always there? But I don't know if there's a correct answer, because I know I've seen somebody was talking about winning the lottery. I forgot who it was, but money's bad, money's not bad. Money just exemplifies, extrapolates what was already there. So if you are a terrible person, you just get to be a terrible person with money.

Holly Jones:

It's like the super soldier serum.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, it just activates. So if you're a good person, then you donate to charity and you use it well and whatever, or you MC Hammer it and it all disappears. There's no money. I don't know the exact backstory with MC Hammer.

Holly Jones:

Aw, what's just room out there, poor guy.

Nate Scheer:

He didn't use it wisely, not poorly, but not against anybody, but I don't think he used it the best, oh boy.

Holly Jones:

So that's why I tell people all the time I pray that I don't I change like evolve into an amazing leader. I hope I'm an amazing regular field chaplain. I hope an amazing individual, but I hope it translates when I'm managing people, managing books, managing this, managing that, like keeping an entire office in regs, for instance. That's my hope.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, and I think the thing I always try to remember and hopefully live by I've seen written a couple different ways, but it's that theory that people remember, like how you treated them, not what they won or what they did or you know things like that but how you treat them. So if you asked them if they were doing well, it's I hope it's more of the smaller things If you were there when you were needed. So I hope, like when people have called and needed help, hopefully been there and things like that, because some people like, oh, you're working too much or too long or whatnot but I feel like my poll is usually back that way, like somebody needed something and hopefully they'll remember it in the future that was able to knock some stuff out for them. So next question what is the biggest challenge you're facing your life right now and how are you getting after it?

Holly Jones:

Huh, biggest challenge? That's a good question, hmm, so I think my challenge, if I can remember correctly that I was thinking of earlier, so this assignment is three years. My first year I was adjusting, right, getting to know the island, getting to know my job and learning how to trust those around me. Mostly, I came from a very untrustworthy position of space and so, coming to this job, I needed them to gain some trust with me Instead of me just handing it out. Year two you're a little more comfortable in your job, so you do it. Year three is my over and beyond year. I literally want to invest in others, and so I do things to make sure that they excel. At the last assignment I made sure that everybody left with excuse me, a brand new award at matchcom level and I wrote a package for a new ribbon and I was trying to learn basically what a deputy did at the deputy chaplain level, and so he gave me actually responsibilities. I even got to do a review packet for the civilians. That was a lot of fun, right? So literally stuff that I would never touch again as a regular field chaplain. All is my job, not the paperwork, right? And so that's more what this year is for me. I really want to invest in all the true north well, actually, all the CGOs and the Chaplain Corps on base. So my hope is to one bring us all together for a dinner here soon. So I'm thinking about oh, next month I need to make reservations, and because there's a lot of people that we don't know their spouses, the awesomeness about being in the chapel is normally you know each other's spouses, you got their numbers for emergencies, etc. But I've never met a lot of my coworkers' spouses because I work with their husbands and they're in different groups etc. And so the coming together is my investment this year. The other thing is giving them an opportunity for a murder board amongst ourselves. One day we'll be able to compete against each other, and so I definitely want to have the opportunity for us to just grow. Since narrative is brand new, let's do this together. Let's have a conversation, let's say why this sentence could be better.

Nate Scheer:

Because it's a sentence.

Holly Jones:

Now you know, elaborate more, give more detail, take this detail out. It's not as important. I would love to chat it up. So just let's grow together.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I think that's the only way to learn too. I know in the beginning, my first five years or whatever it was, you were either firing off these packages or having your supervisor. And then you hear nothing and you're like I think I write okay, and then you realize you don't really write that great, but no one ever, really ever told you so that murder board aspect, when you have three or more people in the room, that doesn't sound the way you think it does. So, bouncing ideas of each other is definitely a great idea. So that's great that your transition is third year and got some goals, get some stuff knocked out. Back to your career field. In your opinion, what's the most important personality trait someone would need to be a successful chaplain?

Holly Jones:

I'm going to go with. I kept saying what's the opposite of selfishness? Oh, it's selflessness. Oh, okay, I think that, being military, they teach us how to compete against one another. Why is it a competition? The catch is that in the, of course, chaplain core, our biggest rank is CGO, and so competing is naturally in the brain, because it's just innate. My thought is definitely that we need a level of selflessness, a moment of. It's not about me, right, because it's about the people we serve, and I love that there are bread and butter. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the airman, big A right. And so my thought is definitely let competition stay where it is in just that realm. But the selflessness portion is important for the everyday. Yeah, I'm not writing a package every day, but I'm serving people every day.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I think having people at the center you can have different left and right or different priorities or whatnot, but if you keep people at the center you can't really go wrong, unless you're putting some people over other people. That might be a whole other thing, but people in general, I think, got to be at the center.

Holly Jones:

Yeah.

Nate Scheer:

That's a good one. What is one piece of advice you'd give someone starting out in your specific career?

Holly Jones:

Oh, I like this one. It reminds me of I do MRT, RTA training for our F-tackers and I just trained on bring your strengths. So the day before we were talking about value-based goals and so learning what your values are so you can set your goals around that right. If my goal is well, my value is my family, so I do nothing in my plans, literally in my goals. That's contrary to that value, and so that's what I was. I bring to the table with them, but I let them know that that same value is inside your strengths, right, and so what you value, your core values, is inside of who you are, and I always invite brand new chaplains to bring you to the table, bring your strengths, because the mission is it needs it.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I think that's super important. It's funny. I just had my midterm feedback with Colonel McFarland and I was kind of chuckling and it's always kind of funny to me. So I took the ASVAB and I got 80s and 90s in most categories and I happened to get a 63 in admin and I am now medical admin and I am now the front office and so it's just kind of funny because it's like I'm not supposed to be good at reviewing documents all day, but I realize I have to play to my strengths. So I said play to my strengths, almost exactly like you said. And so I go down the hall and I talk to people and I get out of my desk and out of my chair and go and see things and, by the relationships I have, people help me and so, even though the admin skills might not be perfect, I have co-workers that help me and I know what they're good at. So I give Jan a lot of things to review and you make it work. But I think that's often overlooked. It's like what's your weakness? Say that, but how?

Holly Jones:

do you make?

Nate Scheer:

your strength, work for you, because that's just as good. So, like don't have perfect admin, but I'm going to make it work, based on those relationships.

Holly Jones:

Yeah.

Nate Scheer:

So we're going to focus back and finish this episode talking about mental health. One of the main purposes of this podcast is to integrate mental health into more conversations. We're going to clear this stigma out and not be able to talk about it. So, even though this particular episode is on, you know an AFSC, mental health has got to be more normal and more common to talk about. So next question is did you have conversations about mental health growing up?

Holly Jones:

We didn't actually, which is you know, oh yeah, it's it. You were adolescent, right, you were a child staying in a child's place, and then you were a teenager and then you were growing, going crazy. I I'll talk. You know, clinical pastoral education teaches you speaking eyes, not the keys. I was a hormonal adolescent.

Nate Scheer:

It was your fault.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, it was, it was, it was all me, but I didn't understand what was going on, right, I didn't understand that, what I was feeling, the confusion, the ups and downs. I couldn't use the word depressed, because that that was not to be used. But yeah, that was not, definitely not to be brought into my mom's house, because why would you be depressed?

Nate Scheer:

What I don't provide.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, I don't provide enough for you, and so I immediately had to snap out of that. So we didn't talk about mental health. That came along, I think, in undergrad, and then I really did enter a depression and just the craziness of entering adulthood, right, because it was the leftovers of whatever what is going on emotionally from high school and then bringing it into college after You're just being an expert so fast, right, yeah? When you turn 20, of course.

Nate Scheer:

You're an expert?

Holly Jones:

Yeah, I'm no longer a teenager, I'm a grown up. But yeah, and so I went through that. I took psychology like everybody else, and then I took Christian ethics and that one started opening my eyes to the different ways people think. And then I had friends who were taking sociology and so that started making me think even more outside the box, because I was like man, maybe I should take sociology, maybe I should take, maybe I should take, maybe I'm in the wrong place. It wasn't until I met Chaplin. Oh my goodness, I think he was a major at that time, chaplin major gun. At that time. He was a recruiter and I think he was a recruiter literally until I came in. So I met him in 2002 after so at 9-11 hit, and we finally saw a recruiter come to our school and he started telling me about all the amazing things that a Chaplin does and downrange, what it looks like and how he was literally helping people get through their days. And I was like, oh my gosh, I want to help people get through their days. Yeah, what?

Nate Scheer:

an impact.

Holly Jones:

What does that do? And he was talking about mental health and their spiritual health and how all of their health spiritual, mental, physical, right, social all play a role and I was like I want that Sign me up.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, and so yeah ever since, Right in the next one. Maybe that touches on it. But why is mental health important to you?

Holly Jones:

Yes, the whole person. So my undergrad was at Oral Roberts University and they specialized in the whole person. Lots of people immediately ask you if you went to Oral Roberts, you want to be a pastor. Well, just so happened, I didn't. That's kind of where I landed. But no, I don't want to be a pastor. So I like when they ask my medical friends that, yeah, ask them, because it was about the whole person. They had medical, they had legal, they had governmental, like they just were really trying to pour into the next generation and it makes sense today more than it did then. But that's what I want for our military airmen to pour into their whole self and remind them that not just one aspect of them is important. You're physical. Yeah, I want you to pass your PT test. I also want you to be able to go home and talk to your spouse like they're a human being. I want you to be able to have a real relationship with your kids and not be a vegetable, because you can't mentally get from that deployment that you just got off of. Like I pray that I'm such an impactful and caring leader that that's what I bring to the fight.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, it's so interesting to me Going back to talking about the mental versus physical. Like if you ask somebody, hey, I'd like to run faster, they'd probably go and print you off an eight-page thing on these intervals you could do and whatnot. But if you're like I'd like to be able to talk to my spouse better, it's oh, it gets awkward, it gets weird. I don't feel like why is that? That's like a weird thing. People get all ripped at the gym, but if you want to better your mental health, it's taboo. We're getting better, but still a ways off. So what are some of the habits that you have that you do reoccurring to make sure you're staying on track for your mental health?

Holly Jones:

So I like to do self-care. As the chaplain of the med group, I've discovered that I am the caregiver of caregivers, and you know how hard it is to take care of caregivers. Do you know why it's hard to take care of caregivers? Ask a nurse. Where's Colonel Jones? They don't take care of themselves. I love that. I got to talk to the surgeon general the other day and make that joke to him. He fell out laughing. Getting my docs out the office impossible, my nurses or nurse practitioners impossible because they have so much charting to do. My technicians are trying to support their docs and nurses, et cetera, those at the front desk. They're apprehensive to leave, but dying to do so. Logistics systems, you name it. Everybody is busy trying to take care of the next person, take care of the team, take care of the mission, take care of the patient, and in the midst of that they are suffering. And so I continued to talk about how they needed to take care of themselves, and then I started suffering and I didn't realize I wasn't taking my own advice, because I'm really good at that.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that's good. I remember Colonel Marshall that had a couple of his commanders call where he told a story of if you were driving by somebody on the side of the road with a flat tire, would you help him. And we're like, oh yeah, of course He'd stop and help him. We're A-type, we like to fix things and so we're going to help him. But then he was like if you're on the side of the road and then someone says you need help, what do you say? No, I'm good. No, no, I got it. It's like that's weird. You flipped that instantly and all of a sudden. So he was like please take the help, which is kind of difficult. So I've been in three groups. I've been Mission Support Group, ops Group and now Med Group and I definitely believe that and can see that where everybody likes to help people. I mean maybe not every, maybe it's 90% or 95%, but the wanting to take care of people is so ingrained into nurses. And then even you know logisticians and other people. They're in there and have that mindset of helping others. So that's definitely good. It's one good, I think, to identify. So make sure you're identifying when you do need help. Accepting it is probably the more difficult thing, but the next part of that is probably setting up, reoccurring or something where the massage is set, the salon is scheduled or maybe something like that, because life is crazy, it moves fast. So I think, we probably need to put stuff on the books, or luckily, my life just forces me, so that's great. Thank you, that's good stuff. Last question we got here is what is the biggest challenge you overcome in your mental health?

Holly Jones:

I think the last, my last assignment was the was a tough one and so I gained, so I think it was progressive, right, I just finished teaching on burnout and so it went from stress consistent stress, chronic stress into burnout. But burnout is such a easy one to learn, lean right into depression and anxiety. Right, because now you're constantly anticipating that bad day that you already lived and so now you're expecting to relive it again and again and again. And I literally did that. I literally lived the bad day over and over and over again, and it just got worse with COVID. So then I moved to that assignment with a three-month-old, and when we were PCSing we had a three-year-old and when I was packing his stuff I got overwhelmed and so sad because I felt like I missed three years of his life. I became super inward. I turned only to me and TV. I didn't want to leave the house, I isolated and it just was not a great situation. My husband got back in the cars and so I didn't get the awesome opportunity to join him, which is what I always said I would do, and so that was really sad to me. But I absolutely now work against that challenge to identify, name it quickly, so I could fix it.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, I just saw something recently that I thought was really interesting, because I do it a lot. I reflect back and think of what I should have said and how I should have said it, or how some situation went.

Holly Jones:

Oh, absolutely.

Nate Scheer:

And so it made me think of it, because you mentioned the anxiety and living through it. So I guess they studied the brain. We're looking at it and the things that are released and the things that flash on the brain map when they're studying for a situation you're thinking about is the exact same as if you're actually living it. So, if you have anxiety about something that will happen, it's the same as if you lived it. That just blew my mind, so you don't even have to be in the argument. You can anticipate the argument and the same things are released and going on as if you were in front of the boss arguing or whatever. The particular situation is so obviously easier said than done. But gotta try to shut those down, decompress, put it in a mental box, tie it with a bow and try to get rid of it because it's the same. So we think, oh well, it's not really happened. I'm just thinking about it. But according to that study done by very smart people, it's the exact same thing. So that's really crazy.

Holly Jones:

Yeah, what's interesting is that some genius told me that we should have like mindful moments in our conference room and yeah, it was echoed in our burnout.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, so I was like oh, this person must be a genius. Stopping and reflecting is always good. So we're at the end. Wanna give you a chance for last words of wisdom. What are your closing thoughts?

Holly Jones:

Oh, that's good. So my closing thoughts are not all chaplains are bad. Just meet another one. Yeah, if all of them are like the person that bad one, then you're at the wrong base. But my hope is in prayer is that it's gotta be the self care. Like I said, I take care of caregivers all day, every day, and even if they're in support, they're still caring Right, and so my hope in prayer is that everyone learns how to stop and breathe, meditate, get an app that backs you up right, or learn actual techniques that can get you past the brink of failure. Learning to reframe my story from my last assignment is actually what's stopping me from having all sorts of terrible words about it right, and now my thoughts have even changed about it because I had to reframe my narrative, and so that's my hope in prayer that people learn new techniques to get them through to the next day. That's good stuff I've heard from.

Nate Scheer:

Simon Soneke. He's mentioned it a couple of different times, but it was interesting. He went and asked questions to people that were at the Olympics. He said how are you feeling? And they said I'm excited. And then he was asking other people, people that were giving presentations or whatever it was, and they said I'm nervous. And he's like you know different emotion. But it was interesting because he stopped and thought about what the output to your brain is, the output to your body is, he's like oh, they both had sweaty palms, their heart rates increased a little bit. They were both a little, you know ready for the next action. So the outcome in your body is exactly the same. How you frame it is different. So the Olympics they'd worked their whole lives to prove themselves that day. So they're like I'm excited, this is gonna be the best day ever, because I've worked my whole life. I'm gonna crush this. And the other one was, you know, public speaking or presentation or something. Everyone hates public speaking, and so they're nervous. But all they have to do is reframe. I'm excited, I'm gonna get after this. I'm gonna crush it. So reframing is definitely important. Yes, because the outcome's still gonna be the sweaty palms and whatever, but it's how you look at it, so that's good stuff. Well, thank you for listening to AFFCs one through nine. Remember, exploring different career fields is an important step in finding the right path for you. Please join us next episode as we continue to explore different career fields and the opportunities they offer. If you have any questions or wanna share your own career story, please let me know. And always, I'm super glad we got to talk a little bit about mental health today. They will be ingrained and intertwined into all of these stories as we continue to bust the stigma and we will see you next time. I love you all and take care of one another.

Career Field
Mental Health and Chaplain Duties
Air Force Chaplain Corps Diversity
Opportunities and Challenges in the Chaplaincy
Mental Health in Leadership
Exploring Mental Health and Reframing Perspectives