Retiring QM School deputy reflects on 41 years of service
Retired Lt. Col. Marshall J. Jones concluded his career June 30 as deputy to the Army Quartermaster General. The South Hill native and Virginia State College and Ohio State University graduate logged more than 41 years of combined military and civilian service. His replacement in the deputy’s chair is retired Lt. Col. Keith Orage, the former QM School director of training. (U.S. Army photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: T. Anthony Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – To fully wrap your arms around the career contributions of Marshall J. Jones, retiring deputy to the Army Quartermaster General, you must go back to his Virginia State College days.

He attended the Ettrick-located school (now a university) on a full football scholarship earned from his high school playing days in South Hill, also in Virginia. With time on the gridiron as the main entree of his student life, Jones added a side dish of ROTC to spice things up. He thought it wise to take advantage of a resource that could be critical to personal development and career success.

“The leadership influence there was high,” Jones said in reference to the reputation of VSC’s military science program and its then-professor, now-retired Lt. Col. Jona McKee. “He is a legend in his own right. I stayed all four years.”

The work ethic and drive he walked away with pushed him to pursue opportunities in professional football; spend more than 21 years as an Army officer; turn down lucrative offers in private industry; and conclude his professional life as one of the highest ranking African-American civilians in CASCOM history.

“I’m indeed humble and grateful for having been afforded the opportunity to serve, work and contribute to the Army, the Quartermaster Corps and the joint warfighter during the course of my career,” said the 65-year-old whose last day on the job was June 30. “I’m thankful for having experienced the opportunity to influence uniformed and civilian professionals along the way.”

In a previous position at Fort Lee, Jones spent more than nine years at the helm of the QM School’s Petroleum and Water Department. Prior to that, the married father of two daughters had spent nearly 22 years in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Jones hails from Mecklenburg County, growing up as the youngest of four children born to sharecroppers and later farmers. The rural community is located roughly 57 miles southwest of Fort Lee just off of Interstate 85. He remembers a childhood centered on strong Christian values and traditions.

“No. 1, you always had reverence for the Lord,” said Jones, recalling the lessons taught by his late parents, Martha F. Baskerville and James Harvey Jones. “God came first. You valued the importance. You acknowledged God in all things. When we sat down to eat, grace was always said. You weren’t going to raise a fork until you did that.”

The family tended tobacco and other crops on small plots of land. The efforts were headed by the family patriarch, a hardworking and upstanding husband and father. His example lives and breathes in his son to this day.

“I’ve always had a hard work ethic,” said Jones. “When I was growing up, my dad – he was one of my idols and I thank God for him – instilled in us a genuine belief in the value of hard work and to treat people with respect and so forth. That’s engrained in me.”

The Jones’ brand of grit and perseverance was the byproduct of farm life and culture. Family members planted and harvested their crops – and performed a thousand tasks in between – so they could provide for themselves. So significant and weighty was the work, most everything else took a backseat, including Jones’ interest in playing football.

“We worked sun-up to sundown, 10-12 hour days,” Jones recalled and quickly noted that it did not change when he began playing football for Park View Junior High. “We would work in the fields (during the day), then practice (football) under the lights at night.”

Jones went on to earn a spot on the varsity football team at Park View Senior High, playing the positions of linebacker, offensive lineman and fullback. He later became sufficiently skilled to earn all-district and all-region honors.

As good as he was on the gridiron, though, Jones could not be solely described as a ‘jock,” ‘gym rat” or “athlete,” although he looked the part standing at over six feet tall and topping 230 pounds. Truth is, Jones worked as hard in the classroom as he did on the athletic field. There was no greater proof than attaining the title of valedictorian of his 1975 graduating class.

The accolades continued for Jones while attending VSC. Among them was becoming a distinguished military graduate, despite playing football all four years. Jones walked away from the college in 1979 with a dual degree in soil and plant science and a commission in field artillery.

After graduation, he decided to pursue professional football. Jones injured himself while trying out for the Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. He was postured to test the waters with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. Additionally around that same time, Jones was entertaining offers from Va. Tech and Ohio State University for a special graduate-level fellowship due to his high grade-point average.

Retiring QM School deputy reflects on 41 years of service
Retired Lt. Col. Marshall J. Jones concluded his career June 30 as deputy to the Army Quartermaster General. The South Hill native and Virginia State College and Ohio State University graduate logged more than 41 years of combined military and civilian service. His replacement in the deputy’s chair is retired Lt. Col. Keith Orage, the former QM School director of training. (U.S. Army photo by T. Anthony Bell). (Photo Credit: Terrance Bell) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Looking at the two, I opted for Ohio State because they had a program in agronomy that I wanted to go into,” he remembered. Additionally, Jones received a National Football League supplemental scholarship, which allowed him to earn a master’s degree without paying any tuition.

Jones had hoped to fulfill his three-year ROTC commitment as a reservist. While he was still attending Ohio State, however, he was called to active duty. He obliged, earning his degree first, then branch-requalified as a quartermaster.

“The reason why I got into the Quartermaster Corps was because of petroleum’s connection to logistics,” said Jones, noting he had studied biofuels and plant and crop science at OSU.

For his initial military assignment, Jones went to Fort Rucker, Ala. There, he was shocked by an adverse racial climate that was as intimidating as it was uncomfortable, he recalled.

“Let me tell you,” he said, “if you could survive at Fort Rucker in the 80s, you could survive anywhere in the military. No doubt in my mind. I saw so many officers fall by the wayside going through Fort Rucker at that time. It was tough.”

Fortunately, Jones had mentors who provided reassurance and guidance. One – Col. Moses Erkins, an African American aviator – suggested he become familiar with a tried-and-true tool of survival: the two-thirds pie rule.

“He said the two-thirds pie rule is one-third what you know, and two-thirds who you know,” recalled Jones, not necessarily downplaying attributes such as knowledge and ability. “Make sure you foster those relationships and establish those contacts as you navigate through here.”

Fort Rucker, as gloomy as it was, turned out to be a godsend for Jones.

“It encouraged me to stay in because, knowing what I saw there, I felt a sense of obligation to try to help make something better for those coming behind me,” he said.

Jones served next with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, then was diverted to the 19th Support Command where he was responsible for operating a segment of the multi-fuel, 283-mile Trans-Korea Pipeline along with another Virginia native, then Capt. (and now retired Lt. Gen.) Larry Wyche.

“I had the first 110 miles,” he said. “It was the most demanding but rewarding assignment you could imagine. We had a real-world mission. We were not only training on what we were trained to do, we were sustaining the warfighter.”

Following his Korea assignment, Jones was selected for the Training with Industry program. He was later assigned to combat development at the Quartermaster School, then worked a special assignment at Sierra Army Depot, Calif.

Additional assignments included a stint with the U.S. Southern Combatant Command in the Republic of Panama, where Jones was responsible for overseeing the turnover of petroleum assets to the Panamanian government.

“You can imagine the skeletons in the closet I had to contend with,” he said, noting a plethora of environmental issues related to fueling operations there.

Jones went on to fulfill other assignments including several deployments to Southwest Asia. He concluded his career with a return to Fort Lee, becoming deputy commander of the 49th Quartermaster Group, a deployable unit that has since been deactivated. Jones retired from the military in 2002.

Boasting varied and challenging assignments, Jones’ military career provided him with unique skills and experience in the relatively obscure field of petroleum distribution. His resume was such that large corporations and government agencies vied for his services. When the skies cleared following a competitive job hunt, however, he accepted a position as director of the QM School’s Petroleum and Water Department.

Brig. Gen. Scott G. West, QM General at the time, cited Jones’ technical expertise and ability to build relations as the basis for the offer. His acceptance also was based on the career tenure of his wife Joyce, a longtime Hopewell Public Schools administrator; strong ties with the sustainment community here; and the proximity of his alma mater and hometown.

Jones spent more than nine years at PWD, diving into his work with such devotion, a subordinate demanded he come up for air on a more frequent basis.

“Both he and his wife worked around the clock,” said Col. Jennifer Karim. “They were either taking care of service members or the neighborhood/church kids they mentored. I gently reminded him to take time for himself and his wife, which he tried to do every so often.”

Karim is now a brigade commander at Fort Hood, Texas.

In 2012, when the deputy to the QM General position became available, Jones was reluctant to apply. He later submitted his credentials at the urging of senior leaders.

“It was something I conferred with several people about,” Jones said. “As faith would have it, God put me there to influence and help others.”

Jones oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Quartermaster School and Corps and made contributions under six QM Generals. He was the first Black person to fill the position. As such, the experience has been immensely dear to him.

“I’m indeed humble and grateful for having been afforded the opportunity to have served, worked and contribute to the Army, the Quartermaster Corps and the joint warfighter during the course of my career. I’m thankful for having experienced the opportunity to have known, served and influenced uniformed and civilian professionals along the way,” said Jones.

“I look forward to retirement,” he continued, “knowing that the organization is headed in the right direction and resides in the hands of very capable leaders and a solid composite workforce.”

In retirement, Jones will continue along his journey of faith, guided by Micah 6:8, which reads, “One should be just, merciful and compassionate and walk humbly with God.” In his own words, Jones aspires to be supportive of those near and far and make contributions to humankind whenever he can.

“I will continue to be productive – plan to ‘wear out, not rust out,’” he said. “I plan to enjoy family and continue to be of service to God, my family and the community.

“I will continue to fulfill a purpose,” he further said. “I will continue to live and not simply exist; continue to be a contributor and not just a consumer; and continue to make a difference, regardless of how small or insignificant, each and every day.”

That is evidence the drive and work ethic is still fresh, and one needs no reference to the olden days to get their arms – and brains – around that.