J.C. Abney, a longtime IMCOM professional and friend to many in the Army community, passed away unexpectedly on March 1, 2022, leaving behind a loving wife, Ava, and two beautiful daughters, Camryn and Jade. After a lifetime of service, he also leaves behind scores of friends and colleagues who will long remember his quiet disposition, easy humor, and attitude of helpfulness.
J.C. decided at an early age to do something worthwhile with his life, and to do it in the service of others. He joined Army ROTC as a student at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and upon graduation received his commission as Second Lieutenant Military Police (MP) officer, entering active duty in 1981. After performing interesting duties in places like Alabama, the Republic of Panama and the Pentagon, he deployed to Haiti in 1995 as a Battalion Executive Officer in support of Operation Uphold Democracy. Here, J.C. deftly applied leadership to his group of military policemen who had the difficult job of maintaining security in the lawless, post-coup d'état environment.
After helping lead the Joint Security Directorate for U.S. Central Command in Saudi Arabia, serving on the Army Officer Special Review Board at Army Human Resources Command, and earning a master’s degree from National Defense University, J.C. joined the team at U.S. Army Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, as the garrison commander of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He retired from military service on Oct. 1, 2008, at the rank of colonel.
Provided oversight of Army FMWR
Recognizing his outstanding leadership skills, the Army appointed him into the Senior Executive Service (civilian general officer equivalent) in 2010 where he served as Deputy to the Commander, U.S. Army Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. Shortly after J.C.’s assumption of this position, the Army changed the commander position to a civilian director and appointed J.C. to it. He then took control of the organization that provides oversight of the Army’s $2.4 billion Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation enterprise.
At the end of 2013, J.C. assumed the position of Deputy Director of the Army’s Training and Leadership Development where he was responsible for policy and resourcing of the Army’s multi-billion-dollar portfolio of training programs. J.C. then returned home to IMCOM where, for the last six and a half years, he served in the most challenging jobs supporting Soldier Readiness and Quality of Life programs. After serving as the Chief of Staff of IMCOM-Sustainment in Huntsville, Alabama, J.C. returned to IMCOM headquarters in San Antonio for his final assignment. It was in this position as Executive Officer and Advisor to IMCOM’s senior civilian leader, where J.C.’s calm demeanor and stalwart dedication to duty allowed him to positively influence all of IMCOM’s 70,000-plus employees worldwide.
During his time at FMWRC and IMCOM, J.C. helped lead transformative change. First by guiding the integration of FMWRC into IMCOM, and later by orchestrating the transformation of IMCOM from geographic regions to functional directorates, improving the delivery of services on Army bases around the globe. J.C.’s leadership during this time positioned IMCOM to take control of four of the five Army priority quality-of-life focus areas: housing, spouse employment, child care, and Permanent Change of Station moves.
Attended prestigious educational institutions
Throughout his Army career, J.C. attended numerous prestigious educational institutions including the FBI National Academy, National Defense University, Secretary of Defense Senior Executive Leadership Program, Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Training, and University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
A highly decorated leader both in and out of uniform, J.C. received some of our nation’s highest awards including the Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medal. He was recognized for his service in uniform with the "Order of the Marechaussee" in Silver, the second-highest award bestowed to a Military Police Officer. Later, for his civilian service, he was awarded the “Order of the White Plume” by the Adjutant General for outstanding service and significant, lasting contributions to Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Programs.
A man of few words, J.C. was a careful listener who allowed others to make their point before coming in at the end and contributing one or two sentences of profound context, advice or other helpful observation. Those of a certain age conjure up the notion of E.F. Hutton.
A devoted father and husband, J.C. loved his family even more than he loved the Army. Normally calm and quiet, J.C.’s eyes lit up and his chest stuck out a little more when he spoke of his wife and daughters. He suddenly he became the most talkative guy in the room.
During his time as an Army civilian professional, J.C. devoted much of his energy toward mentoring the next generation of leaders. Jade Fulce, a public affairs specialist for the Center for Disease Control, summarized this group’s sentiment. “Mr. Abney was a dedicated public servant who supported the U.S. Army and its families. He challenged everyone around him to give their best and not get weary of doing what’s right. We all miss his wisdom and care for others.”
In this way J.C.’s legacy will live on throughout the Army he loved and to which he devoted his life. Those new leaders will follow his lead and be good listeners who speak with economy and gravitas, always ready to help a colleague, welcome a friend, or be there for their family. A life well-lived is indeed worthy of emulation.