SFC Terry L. Jones II spent 15 years in the Illinois Army National Guard at the 1644th Transportation Company, where his impact sent an immense ripple effect through not just his unit, but the entire community. Deploying twice overseas with his unit and countless times stateside, his exceptional capabilities as a natural leader were honed overseas and further still at home as he entered more senior levels of leadership.
In 2008-2009 SFC Jones volunteered to deploy with the 1844th out of Quincy, IL as a heavy vehicle operator along with ten other Soldiers from the 1644th. While stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, he ran convoy missions into multiple Forward Operating Bases in Iraq.
In 2011-2012, the 1644th was one of the last units out of Iraq in the final days of Operation New Dawn, responsible for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in the region. During this deployment, SFC Jones was deployed alongside his father, Terry Jones Sr., a remarkable legacy for the unit. SFC Jones missed the birth of his first child, a daughter, Cadence, while on that deployment because he put the needs of his unit and the mission above his own. This selfless service would be the trademark of SFC Jones’s career.
In April 2020, the 1644th was activated to stand-up and operate the Aurora, IL COVID-19 testing site. SFC Jones was appointed NCOIC and volunteered to extend twice, the second time to an undetermined end date. The 1644th operated the testing site from its beginning in mid-April through the beginning of August 2020. As NCOIC, he was responsible for 80 Soldiers and Airmen as well as testing up to 750 people for COVID-19 per day, over 33,000 tests in total, a limit often reached early in the duty day due to the efficiency with which he operated the testing site.
While NCOIC, he excelled in Soldier care, going above and beyond to improve and maintain the physical and mental health of his Soldiers during a time of profound uncertainty. He overcame personal failings and adversity, using it as a tool to become a better leader. He was honest and transparent about his process, modeling vulnerability and resilience to his Soldiers.
FC Jones was a servant leader. As an NCO, he was everyone’s NCO. He took care of Soldiers even when they were not under his command. He would always say, “A good NCO takes care of people.” He was motivated by a drive to help others, even if that meant going out of his way or helping Soldiers that were no longer in the unit. He led by example. He was never too good for a job or task and never asked someone to do something he would not. He stood up and advocated for Soldiers to get them what they needed to complete the mission at their best. He mentored those coming after him, especially the SSGs managing his platoon while he was away on active duty orders.
The embodiment of transformational leadership, he was a coach and mentor. One of his greatest strengths as a leader was making everyone feel seen and appreciated. He was quick to praise when he witnessed good work. He was always striving to be better and do better, setting the same example for his Soldiers. He set realistic expectations and communicated them well. He was stern, but fair and reasonable. He mentored his NCOs, training them to do his job by showing them how to manage people. He would often offer advice to leaders struggling managing conflicting personalities. “Just talk to them, but spend more time listening.” SFC Jones taught his NCOs that leaders should seek to understand before being understood and that there are times when mercy is also justice.
t did not take long for new subordinates to identify his leadership style. During the COVID-19 response of 2020, thirty new Soldiers arrived for a relief in place from five different units. He earned their trust and fully assimilated them into the original group in less than a week. He led by example in such a way that he commanded respect and authority without uttering a single command.
He was approachable, non-judgmental, and often the first to know if a Soldier was having an issue as he was who they asked for help. He was always friendly, supportive, warm, involved, and engaged with all unit activities from planning formal events like the annual Christmas Ball or spontaneous games of hack y-sack and pick-up basketball. He had time for everyone. He made the effort to make and maintain connections with everyone in the unit. He was always doing something to help make everyone feel included and part of the team.
SFC Jones valued his community and the Family Readiness Group as an integral part of the National Guard’s success. He believed the community needed the unit’s support and much as the unit needed the community. He knew that his wife and children benefitted from the community’s support while deployed, and wanted to pay that back with interest. He initiated projects to benefit the community and demonstrate what the National Guard could offer, a legacy that continues today with a scholarship in his name for students seeking careers in skilled trades.
He volunteered for additional duties to benefit the unit. He was the Equal Opportunity NCO, certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, certified to uphold the Army’s Body Composition Program. He also cross-trained in several sustainment roles, contributing to his wealth of knowledge and assets as a transporter: in maintenance he became skilled in recovery operations and in the mess section he learned distribution capabilities and operations.
As a learner, SFC Jones was eager to learn and develop himself to benefit the people he led. Humble to the core, he was grateful for praise or constructive feedback, and subsequently put it into practice. He personified resilience by asking for help when he and others could benefit. As NCOIC for COVID-19 vaccine distribution January 2021-June 2021, a position for which he was recruited, he bravely stepped out of his comfort zone into a new position, responsible for 40 teams made up of 500+ Soldiers and airmen in the task force. He was the last one to leave every day, staying late to make sure everyone else was taken care of before taking care of himself. Preferring to perform tasks on his own, he increased his proficiency in delegating with humbleness and humor. He was often heard saying, “I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
SFC Jones valued tradition in the 1644th, bringing back the monthly ritual of awarding Thor’s Hammer to the best performing platoon of the company each drill. He also valued family.
The greatest impact of his leadership is evidenced by the amount of Soldiers that reenlisted during Annual Training following his untimely death. Nine Soldiers reenlisted, all those he mentored and was mentored by, a record for the unit in one training event. It is for these reasons we believe SFC Terry L. Jones II belongs in the Transportation Hall of Fame.
Within the walls of the 1644th, there is a mural. The senior NCO passing a torch to the junior, bridging the gap between generations. SFC Jones’s legacy is the Soldiers he inspired, to whom he passed the torch. The unit who stepped into fill his shoes, together. He was the leader everyone hoped to have and to be. He was the best of us.