“We’re like Green Berets with stingers.”
— Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones brings Corps values to apprentice training
WHAT DO THE Marine Corps and the Boilermakers have in common? If you ask Andrew Jones, quite a lot.
Jones, who is the apprentice instructor at the new J. G. Cooksey WSJAC Training Center in Salt Lake City, says attitude, discipline and camaraderie drive the Boilermaker construction trade — the same traits that make the Corps successful in its mission.
He would know. Jones is both a Boilermaker and a Marine combat veteran. He followed his father, Carl, in joining the Brotherhood and in serving with the Corps. (Now a retired 30-year Boilermaker, Carl served with the 5th Marine Division in Vietnam.)
Andrew Jones got his start in the trade first as a helper and later as an apprentice and journeyman with Salt Lake City Local 182 (since merged with Local 4, Page, Arizona). When the war in Iraq began in 2003, he felt duty-bound to enlist in the Marines. He finished at the top of his class in boot camp and following advanced infantry training volunteered for action in Iraq. After two combat tours there, he returned to the States and became a rifle instructor at the USMC’s 29 Palms Air Ground Combat Center in California’s Mojave Desert.
Training thousands of Marines in basic marksmanship and combat marksmanship — including combat assault with night optics and urban combat — honed Jones’ teaching skills. They're skills he now puts to good use with the Boilermakers.
But upon his discharge from service in 2008, he first took another path, going to college with the ambition, he says, “to change the world.”
He soon found that a college degree didn’t guarantee a job would be available. With bills to pay, Jones returned to the Boilermaker trade, working across the Southwest on a variety of projects. He enjoyed the work and building friendships.
Then a story in the Boilermaker Reporter caught his eye: The Boilermakers were breaking ground on a new apprentice training center near his home in Salt Lake City. He quickly applied for the position of lead instructor and was thrilled to receive the appointment.
It seems a perfect fit. Teaching apprentices and recruits how to be skilled and dedicated Boilermakers allows Jones the opportunity he sought after his service with the Marines — if not to change the world, then at least to impact the Brotherhood in a vital way, just as he helped shape new Marines during his time as a rifle marksmanship instructor.
When he attended the May 2018 National Instructor Conference in Chicago, sponsored by the Boilermaker National Apprenticeship Program (BNAP), Jones met scores of other Boilermaker instructors from across the country and confirmed his expectations.
“I see no difference in the Marine Corps versus [the cadre of Boilermaker instructors] at all,” he says of his experience at the conference. “You get all these people from all over the place, all different, all different ways of looking at things. But when we wake up and we gear up and we get ready for the day, we’re all the same. Lace up our boots, stomp down, be on time. You know, all professionals — that was what I liked about it. The other thing was, in the downtime, it was so business. Everybody was talking business. No matter where we were at, they were still locked on.”
For Jones, one of the key take-aways from the conference is the need to actively recruit. “We’re the best-kept secret in the industry. We’ve got to change that,” he says. “The Boilermakers have so much to offer in terms of careers, benefits and pride.”
While the Brotherhood parallels many of the strengths of his beloved Marine Corps, Jones notes that the elite nature of Boilermakers as a craft brings to mind special operations soldiers “armed” with welding electrode holders.
“We’re like Green Berets with stingers,” he says.