Making the jump: Former PJ credits Air Force for successful acting career
By Mike Joseph , JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs
/ Published May 22, 2012
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- A former pararescueman credits the Air Force for helping him make a successful jump from the military to a television and film career.
Jon Huertas, born Jon William Hofstedt, served eight years in the Air Force as a pararescue jumper and nuclear weapons technician. He took advantage of the Air Force educational opportunities to pursue his first love - acting.
"I wanted to be an actor since I was a small child," said Huertas. "The success I've been able to accomplish in the entertainment industry I always correlate to my time in the Air Force."
Huertas was on base last week as part of a Hollywood entertainment industry group visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and Camp Bullis. Huertas, president and CEO of Soldier Stories Entertainment, currently portrays homicide detective Javier Esposito on the television show "Castle," now in its fourth season.
The two-day visit served multiple purposes for the 36 entertainment industry executives, producers, directors and writers. The purposes of the visit were to: educate and inform the group about the people, mission and equipment of the Air Force and the 37th Training Wing; generate ideas for future portrayals of the Air Force in television and film; and equip entertainment industry professionals to more accurately and realistically depict the Air Force people, mission and equipment in existing projects.
"It definitely is going to help and inspire me," Huertas said about the visit. "One lady in the group is developing a script on (another service branch), but after seeing a basic training graduation, said she would switch it to the Air Force. She had tears in her eyes; it definitely affected her.
"A lot of these writers and producers are looking for ways on, 'how do I tell a new story about the Air Force?' "How do I incorporate it into a story the general public would want to see," said Huertas, who is also working on a project about the Air Force. "I can already see people gaining interest from this trip. They will take away a lot of knowledge, and I think it's going to benefit their projects and the Air Force."
Huertas graduated high school at 17, spent a year in college, and then joined the Air Force in 1987. His decision to serve in the military simply followed a family pattern.
"A lot of men in my family went into the military, and I decided that as kind of a rite of passage I would go into the Air Force," he said. "It was also a place to take advantage of a great (educational) system.
"I was in for eight years, but my desire was to always be an actor. The Air Force helped me achieve that by allowing me to get an education, to study as much theater as I could, and eventually earn a degree in theater. The support I got from the people I worked with was just amazing."
Huertas has parlayed his military background into numerous roles in film and television. He played a sergeant in the HBO miniseries "Generation Kill," about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and a lieutenant in the film "Stealth Fighter."
He does get calls to be a technical advisor because of his Air Force service, particularly on "Castle."
"(Castle's) executive producer allowed me to create the back story of my character," Huertas said. "I wanted my character to be a veteran, an Army Special Forces guy. He let me work that in.
"They always ask me to help with tactical things, weapons, and scripts that come down about the military."
Huertas credits what he learned and experienced in the Air Force as a driving force in his acting career.
"(The graduation parade we attended) showed me that team building is still very important, and I think that's what I got from the Air Force," he said. "The team support allowed me to keep reaching for my goal.
"Without the structure, discipline and initiative I learned in the Air Force, I don't think I would have lasted because of the ups and downs in this business," Huertas added. "The 'never quit' warrior mentality carried me through. The character building also helped me, and I don't think I would be a working actor today without the Air Force."