This week, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2014 is preparing for commencement. Coast Guard Compass is featuring four academy cadets throughout the week, each with their own inspiring story. Today we feature the story of Cadet 1st Class Andre Jones-Butler.
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall.
The passageways of Chase Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy are filling up with trunks, suitcases and a sense of excitement as the end of the academic year draws near and cadets prepare to disembark for the summer.
For first class cadets – seniors at the academy, this time of year brings with it a powerful blend of pride, nostalgia and eagerness to graduate and report to their first duty stations as ensigns in the U.S. Coast Guard. Some graduates report to shore units, others to cutters. A select few receive orders directly to flight school training in Pensacola, Fla. Such is the case with Cadet 1st Class Andre Jones-Butler.
Jones-Butler, a 22-year-old native of Tyrone, Ga., traveled to Puerto Rico during his first year at the academy and had the opportunity to take a flight in a Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter.
“It was probably the most peaceful experience I’ve ever had,” said Jones-Butler. “I had never realized how cathartic flying could be. I suppose you could say that experience set my life upon its current trajectory.”
Jones-Butler aims to pilot fixed-wing aircraft which the Coast Guard uses for a variety of operations, including search and rescue, ice patrol and disaster response.
Aside from taking the steps necessary to enter flight school after graduation, Jones-Butler divided his time at the academy among many worthy pursuits, including serving as the president of the academy’s Genesis Council, a multicultural organization that strives to increase cultural awareness, provides academic and social support and celebrates diversity.
“The academy is a wellspring of opportunity,” said Jones-Butler. “You can virtually accomplish anything at the academy but you have to be willing to consistently work towards it. It’s equally important for you to do the things that make you happy. If you can find a way to balance the two, your life is going to yield some wonderful things.”
Earlier this year, Jones-Butler received the Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown Genesis Award, which honors those who have proven instrumental in fostering a community of inclusion at the academy and actively promote an environment free from bias and discrimination. Jones-Butler is the first cadet to receive this prestigious award.
In addition to serving on the regimental staff and as company executive officer, Jones-Butler planned and organized many events and trips aimed at making all cadets feel valued and respected, including a trip to the Black Solidarity Conference at Yale University, among many other multicultural festivals and lectures.
Jones-Butler attributes his outpouring of care and concern for his fellow cadets to the many small things others did along the way to help him reach this momentous milestone.
“The things I remember most are the little acts of kindness that allowed me to succeed and prosper here,” said Jones-Butler.
To those who will be graduating from the academy in the coming years, Jones-Butler leaves some words of advice and encouragement.
“Beyond anything else, work hard,” said Jones-Butler. “Wake up every morning ready to put your best foot forward and do something wonderful. The more you challenge yourself here, the more return you’ll get on the time that you’ve invested in the academy.”