Marine Corps Intelligence Awards

The Marine Corps Association & Foundation recently held its Fifth Annual Intelligence Awards Dinner to honor the professional achievements of the top performing Marines in the Intelligence Community.

At a ballroom in Northern Virginia, over 450 civilians, retired and active duty Marines, gathered to honor the best of the Marine Corps Intelligence community.” Brigadier General Michael S, Groen, Director of Marine Corps Intelligence, began the night with introductions of the numerous retired Marine Corps general officers and senior staff noncommissioned officers in attendance. He then relinquished the lectern for the presentation and retirement of the colors by the Marine Barracks Washington color guard, with musical accompaniment by “The President’s Own.”

General John M. Paxton Jr., Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, the keynote speaker delivered a historically accurate and moving speech. Paxton emphasized the increased professionalism of the Marine Corps Intelligence Community, beginning with the “Van Riper Plan” in 1995, which was launched in response to the perceived intelligence shortcomings exposed during the Gulf War. Paxton then yielded the lectern for presentation of awards.

The following awards were presented by the Marine Corps Association & Foundation:

· MajGen Michael E. Ennis Award for Literary Excellence, was awarded for article “Operate to Know” to authors Colonel Drew E. Cukor, Colonel Matthew L. Jones, Captain Kevin Kratzer, and Second Lieutenant Sy Poggemeyer.

· The Director of Intelligence Innovation Award, was awarded to Full Motion Video Optical Navigation Exploitation Development Team.

· The Director of Intelligence Language Professional of the Year Award, was awarded to Sergeant Nielsen J. Rivera, who is proficient in Pashto, Spanish, and both European and Brazilian Portuguese.

· The Command Language Program of the Year, awarded to 2d Radio Battalion.

· Mr. John J. Guenther Intelligence Civilian of the Year Award, awarded to Mr. Garrett Jones.

· Lance Corporal James E. Swain Enlisted Marine of the Year Award, awarded to Lance Corporal Corey C. Lewis.

· Master Sergeant Charles V. Arndt NCO of the Year Award, awarded to Sergeant Jeffrey T. Fussell.

· Master Gunnery Sergeant Samuel C. Plott Staff NCO of the Year Award, awarded to Staff Sergeant Brian D. Wiggins.

· LtCol Michael D. Kuszewski Award for Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Officer, awarded to Major Benjamin J. Grass.

· The Director of Intelligence Unity of the Year Award, awarded to 1st Radio Battalion.

All of the award recipients were the best in their specialty. But there was one awardee that stood above the crowd, Mr. Garrett Jones. When Jones walked to the stage to accept his award there was a barely perceptible hitch in his gate. If not for his camouflage-clad Labrador therapy dog, you would not know that Jones was missing a limb.

BGen Groen, Garrett Jones, wife, and Gen Paxton

Then-Corporal Jones was an infantry Marine when on foot patrol outside Falluja, Iraq in July 2007 when he was injured by a roadside bomb. One year later, Jones had completed his rehabilitation, become accustomed to his prosthetic leg, and was ready to redeploy with his unit to Afghanistan. Jones completed his 2008 deployment to Afghanistan, before he was retired from the Marine Corps in 2009.

Initially Jones pursued a pre-med degree at Western Oregon University. But Jones still desired to serve his country. After completing his Bachelor of Science in 2012, he returned to the Marine Corps, this time as a civilian intelligence analyst in 2013 with the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA). He again volunteered to redeploy to Afghanistan as a civilian in 2014. Jones then returned to MCIA as an intelligence analysist, while he pursued his Master’s Degree from the National Intelligence University.

During my conversation with Jones he was professional, humble, and insistent on praising others for his accomplishments. Jones was adamant that he would not have received his award if not for the assistance he received from the Sentinels of Freedom, specifically the assistance he received from Mike Conklin.

Mr. Jones is an outstanding example of the dedicated and professional young Marines who joined the Marine Corps while our nation was at war, knowing they would be deployed in harm’s way. He, along with the other awardees, are a credit to our nation. The MCA&F should be praised and supported for recognizing the amazing accomplishments of Marine such as Garrett Jones.

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