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NEWS | Aug. 10, 2022

Guarding from a Distance: One Kentucky Officer’s Non-Traditional Approach to serving the Commonwealth

By Ms. Jesse Elbouab, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

Born and raised in Kentucky, Col. Shaune Jones, strategy chief to the Undersecretary to the Army, attended the University of Louisville and commissioned as an officer through the 238th Regional Training Institute with only two other cadets in 2001. 

Branching field artillery, Jones launched his career with the 1st Battalion 238th Regiment. He began a full-time technician position as a transportation officer with United States Property and Fiscal Office, USPFO, eventually moving on to internal review as an auditor.

"That is probably where things took a pretty significant turn," said Jones. 

Today, Jones assists the undersecretary in managing their strategic priorities. In addition, he works with public affairs personnel to assemble strategic messaging. Working directly with some of the Army's most complex issues, Jones aids the Army's most senior leaders in organizing and executing effective solutions. 

One of the principal projects Jones has assisted with during his tenure is the investigation into Fort Hood's operations that have led to several significant incidents, including loss of life. Tasked with taking the investigation results and identifying systematic organizational failures is the beginning of the Army's solution process.  

Obtaining such a position certainly didn't occur overnight. Jones has represented the commonwealth in various capacities and geographical locations outside the state's borders for the last 20 years.

Upon completing Command and General Staff College in 2010, Jones applied and was accepted into the Advanced Military Studies Program (AMSP) at the School of Advanced Military Studies, or SAMS, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The 11-month master's degree-producing program is highly sought after and selective. Jones is the second of only three Kentucky National Guard Officers to attend the elite school.

"It produces operational planners," said Jones. "I would equate it to something of a "war college" -- War College focuses on a strategic level, while SAMS focuses on the operational level. Graduates from the program are highly sought after. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, becoming an AMSP graduate set the conditions for every opportunity I've had since then."

Returning to Kentucky, Jones assumed an in-state utilization ADOS position as a planner for director of military support, DOMS, under J3 operations. During this time, Jones was promoted to lieutenant colonel where he became the deputy fire support coordinator with the 38th Division as a part of his traditional career. 

While working for DOMS full-time and fulfilling his traditional guard obligation, Jones was offered a position in Jacksonville, Fl., running a $45 million annual revenue-producing Super Target. He took the job, leaving Kentucky in a full-time capacity, but continued to serve the commonwealth, commuting across state lines to continue his monthly drill obligation. 

"I probably walked an average of 25,000 to 30,000 steps daily," Jones emphasized.  

Full-time military to full-time retail proved to be a significant career cultural shift that Jones prepared for but was still caught off guard by. 

"In the military, especially as an officer, you become accustomed to telling your staff, ‘Here is what I need, get it done,’ Jones said. "That happens. After being in retail, I realized I took that time for granted. You must encourage people to follow your lead in a volatile environment, or they will work for you today and quit tomorrow; we don't have that in a military organization." 

Balancing an out-of-state guard career, a high up-tempo retail career, and his family, which welcomed twins during his time in Jacksonville, Jones knew that he needed to make some career changes if he was going to be present and successful in all facets of life. 

After applying to several opportunities, the Jones family packed up, leaving Florida in the rearview, to head up the east coast to Fort Belvoir, Va. Unbeknownst to everyone, the shift would bring opportunities for even more positive organizational impact.

Jones found himself where all his professional and educational development could be used for the betterment of the commonwealth and the National Guard organization.

Initially, falling into the ranks of the Joint Force Staff's War Plans Division, Jones found himself working on projects that immediately impacted the future of our nation's security. 

"The job was very big-brain, creating high-level strategic documents, such as the Joint Strategic Campaign Plan, which is a document that operationalizes the national military strategy," said Jones.

Traditionally, positions such as these have a timed tenure of two years, though he served from 2017 to 2020. During this time, Jones continued to drill as a traditional Guardsmen, as the commander for the 238th Regiment.

As his three-year obligation was coming to an end, Jones shared a conversation he had with at that time with then Kentucky National Guard Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Stephen Hogan. 

 "He and I had what I feel like was a critical conversation," recalled Jones. "He (Hogan) said he was invested in continuing to find opportunities for me to serve in an traditional capacity, in key positions within the state, but also acknowledged a fear if the state brought me back to work in a full-time capacity, I would be underused and in time become bored. He encouraged me to continue working at my highest potential, even if that meant from D.C." 

He completed his tour as Kentucky's only joint qualified officer. To qualify as a joint qualified officer currently, an individual must satisfy two requirements. First, serve in a joint certified position for a minimum of 24 months. The second is that an individual must complete Joint Professionalism Military Education, level two, JPME. 

By having this moniker on his resume, Jones has set himself apart as one of the most strategically educated leaders in Kentucky’s history.

Of course, no successful career is built on perfect performance and without supportive mentors. Without hesitation, when questioned about the most impactful mentor in Jones' career, he said, "That is an easy one, Brig. Gen. Brian Wertzler." 

Jones recalls being a young Second lieutenant early in his career and what, at the time, was a potentially career-impacting moment. 

While attending a professional development training at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center Jones showed up two hours late. He attributed it to "goofing off." Wildly out of character for Jones, Wertzler pulled him aside.  

"He focused me in on being a professional - representing myself and my unit, and I really have not turned back from that," he said.

Jones recalls receiving no punishment for his behavior yet has continued to hold close to the wisdom Wertzler provided in his moment of shame. He solidifies this encounter laid a foundation for the kind of officer he would want to be.

So much of Jones' career is brushed over by the sheer extent of his professional accomplishments. Deployments, command time, countless courses, missed and pursued opportunities are just a few to mention. 

"As a senior leader, at this point in my career, I am operating on a month-to-month lease," says Jones. "I have had a great career. I could retire today and be extremely proud of my accomplishments, but at the same time, I feel I have a responsibility to be a trailblazer. Thus far, Kentucky Army Guard has not had a black general officer. I am very cognizant of this and want to continue my pursuits to be that example for the next generation to model." 

Today, Col. Shaun Jones serves as the Strategy Chief to the Director of the Army National Guard, Lt. Gen. Jon Jenson.

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