If you ask members of the United States Armed Forces as well as veterans whose active career is behind them, fitness is more than a hobby, it’s literally a part of the job. They don’t have to get ready because they stay ready and Mark Jones is no exception.

Mark Jones is a veteran of the United States Army, and he thrived in fitness as well as strength. Jones prospered in a weight room. His personal best deadlift was 675 pounds with lifting straps. He pulled 630 pounds in competition. He could also squat 585 pounds and bench 405 pounds at a bodyweight of 220 pounds. While he prospered in powerlifting, his connection to fitness went back to his childhood, and he credits a basketball coach from his youth, Health Burns, for helping him aspire to higher standards of excellence.

“This is where my love for weight lifting came in, he trained us throughout the summer on the Bigger Faster Stronger program and taught us more about life than anyone in my life ever did.”

Once Mark Jones began his Army career, he knew it was where he belonged. A third-generation member of the military, Jones himself served for 10 years in various locations around the world, and had a goal of making it to 20. He’d been the first to do so if he had made it. Unfortunately, he was medically retired. His service was important and made a difference in the freedom of those that live in his homeland, but the injuries racked up over that decade. He had to change his focus for fitness as well.

“I loved every second of being in the service, but I am glad I’m out,” he said. “As of recent, I have been forced to develop a love for functional fitness and more endurance training. So, I am shifting my gears to healthy living but still being strong as possible. My new ventures with fitness along with hanging on to a bit of bodybuilding, I find that it is much easier on the joints and the body, to add move volume and not worry about extremely heavy lifting.”

While he was on active duty, Jones spent his time as a Construction Engineer and a Corrections/Detention Officer. He also worked as an instructor at the Corrections Schoolhouse for his final assignment, and this was a position he found to be very rewarding.

“At my day-to-day job, I see the so-called semi clinical population, what I mean here is we see the Army Body Composition Program participants, individuals that failed one or more of the six events on the ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test). Or those that are close to failing either of the previous. Therefore, for my organization, the Army Wellness Center, our main mission is to provide services that promote enhanced and sustained healthy lifestyles to improve the overall readiness of the Army.”

The difference Mark Jones made was profound, but you have to understand the scope of his work to fully appreciate it. Not only did he directly work with many people, but those people then went on to help and inspire others as well.

“Not only did I start college during this assignment, but I impacted thousands of lives while I was there. I loved helping Soldiers and showing them better ways to enhance their fitness levels. This passion for teaching pushed me to where I am now and greatly had an impact on my degrees thus far.”

Among those degrees are a Masters in Exercise Science and Human Performance from American Military University. a certification in Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine as well as a Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator & Certified Personal Trainer from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He also holds numerous certifications from ISSA & NCI.

Jones’ ability to help and impact others could be seen as far back as when he was in college. One of his professors, Dr. Joe Elrod, encouraged and fed that passion often.

“In every class we were in, he would send me a message nudging me because of the way I presented myself. Even as a student I try to educate others and help out. He pointed out that I was one of the few that took time to talk (Virtually) with all students and it made me think of a career in teaching at the higher levels.”

While his active career is in his rearview mirror, he didn’t stray too far from the Army or fitness. Mark Jones currently works at The Army Wellness Center on Fort Bragg, NC. He is the Supervisory Health Educator responsible for seven health educators and two health promotion technicians.

“My job at the wellness center consists of supervising metabolic and body composition testing, as well as conducting nutritional and healthy living classes to Soldiers and their families,” he explained. “Being retired early kind of made me want to stay and assist until I cannot do so anymore.”

There are several components of being fit to serve or support those that do, but Jones laid out four that really stand out.

  • Speed and Endurance – Run and ruck farther and faster so the mission is accomplished.
  • Flexibility and Mobility – Move easily over differing terrain and in obstacles not only in training environments but also in combat.
  • Strength and Power – Lift equipment, gear, and people as needed.
  • Muscle Stamina – Ability to be able to move our bodies and our gear as needed for the length of missions and much more.

“Over all, it comes down to relative strength of the Tactical Athlete, which is strength per bodyweight,” he explained. “Tactical athletes don’t need to be super humans, or as strong as possible. This is because an overemphasis on strength training comes at a cost of other required fitness attributes such as endurance and work capacity.”

Even though his job is to educate, he’s still learning in this career as well. He credits Dr. Michael Jarka for helping him thrive and grow in his position.

“He is our current AWC Division Chief, I say he is somewhat of a mentor as he gives guidance for the CUC program I am attending and has helped tremendously in my growth within the organization.”

The career he is in now is different than the one he held before, but it’s one that he can see the fruits of his labor on a regular basis.

“I would say the most rewarding portion of the job is working with new health educators in educating them on running equipment and analyzing test results. The main tests I’m referring to is our Fitness Test (VO2max and SUB max).”

Mark Jones sees himself continuing this career for a long time to come, and he feels it is something that can make a great difference for the overall wellness of those that continue to defend freedom.

“My focus now is working with Soldiers and giving them as much information as possible so they can one day deliver that same information to their Soldiers or know how and where to send them for assistance.”

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