Spring 2017 Corps Review | Back
By Taylor P. Jones ’90
In 1986, I applied and was accepted to Virginia Tech, whereupon I entered F Company in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. For me it was just a foregone conclusion that I’d be in the Corps one day.
Participation in the Corps was a family tradition that I was keen to follow: My father, Joseph T. Jones ’65 was in A Squadron; my grandfather Robert B. Jones ’42 was in L Battery; and my great-grandfather T. Mercer Jones ’19 was in the Corps but did not graduate. It also helped with my decision when I found out that several friends from Blacksburg High School (yes, I was a townie) also were going to be in the Corps. In fact, my roommate, Nathan Collins ’90, and I had been friends since grade school. We also had another good friend from Blacksburg, John Berger ’90, who commiserated with us during our new cadet year.
I have many memories of my time in the Corps, and the first few weeks provided some of the ones I remember most. I’ll never forget one of the first times I met our F Company first sergeant, David Russillo ’88. He was strict and demanding but at the same time was approachable if we had any problems. At the time, the commandant, Lt. Gen. Howard M. Lane, was trying to make the Corps a kinder and gentler place by changing the rat line into the “new cadet” system. Russillo had his own thoughts about this change and told us politely that he didn’t care what they called it, we were still going to drag in the halls, brace when spoken to, speak up, and endure whatever other schemes he and the other upperclass cadets dreamed up for us to do.
Taylor Jones learns to catch critters at French Foreign Legion Desert Survival School, Djibouti, Africa, 2007.
A few funny things stick out from my time in the Corps, and among them is the time when me and my other two jakes tied our dyker, Allan Fehr ’89, to the lanyard on the new flagpole between Brodie and Rasche halls in the middle of the night and hoisted him to the top. It was around Christmas, and our idea was to wrap red ribbon down the pole to make it look like a candy cane. Alas, we were foiled by an attentive cadet from the Highty-Tighties, who got one of the cadet officers to tell us to cease and desist under no uncertain terms. As he pointed out, the flag pole was swaying to and fro in a somewhat dangerous manner with Allan at the top of the pole.
On one cold winter night, a bunch of us got our “pickle bag” (green utility uniforms) on and drove up Interstate 81 to the place near Lexington, Virginia, where Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Keydets paint the big rock every year with their class year on it. As I remember it, we sort of rappelled down from the top of the rock and, utilizing a lot of spray paint, painted over the “M” in VMI, changing the rock to read “VPI.” We then proceeded to ride around VMI yelling “Hokie Hi” out of the car until the VMI campus police pulled us over and advised we should leave before an altercation ensued. (Sage advice looking back on it!) I’m sure the Keydets at the time were not amused — but it was innocent fun had by all, and we did our part for the old rivalry.
I also remember running around the Virginia Tech campus once or twice in the middle of the night, involved in various activities the upperclass cadets deemed to be “character building.” Those stories are probably best left to the imagination.
A new door opens
During my time in the Corps, I was in Air Force ROTC under Col. Russ McDonald, a Vietnam War veteran and former fighter pilot. He was the one who called me in his office and told me that due to some heart surgery I had in my youth, I would be unable to pass the Air Force physical. Upon hearing this news, my only thought was figuring out what I was going to do now that I wouldn’t be receiving a commission. I then did what any young person would have done in my position and called Mom and Dad for guidance. My father gave me great advice when he said that when the Lord closes doors, He always opens other ones. So at that point I began to pursue other career options.
My previously mentioned F Company first sergeant, Russillo, had opted out of the Air Force ROTC and had joined the Virginia State Police (VSP). Although we did not have anyone in law enforcement in my family, I thought it might be a good career choice. So after graduation, I applied with the VSP and approximately 18 months later found myself in the VSP Basic School. That was akin to being back in new cadet training, so all of the yelling and regimentation endured as a trooper trainee was old hat to me.
I made it through the Basic School and upon graduation was assigned to Caroline County, Virginia, as a new state trooper. I stayed two years there and was quickly promoted to special agent in the VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation-Richmond Division and subsequently the Salem Division, where I stayed for another 10 years. During this time, I met my beautiful wife, Bobbie Jo, through a mutual friend, and we were married and started a family. In 2004, Bobbie Jo and I decided that although we loved the VSP, we wanted to see more of the world. Because I still loved the military, we chose to put an application in with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
In 2004, I was picked up by NCIS and began training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. I was initially assigned to Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. After four years there, including a six-month stint as what we call the “day agent” aboard the USS Carl Vinson, I transferred down to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as part of what NCIS called the Contingency Response Field Office (CRFO). It was basically a field office set up to deploy agents worldwide. While stationed there, I did three tours in Iraq and four in Afghanistan — adding to a previous tour to Iraq and one to Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, Africa, while assigned to Norfolk. Most of my tours were to criminal investigative billets as part of the International Contract Corruption Task Force, with the exceptions that my deployment to Djibouti was as a liaison to the Djiboutian National Police and my first tour in Iraq was as an interrogator assigned to Joint Special Operations Command.
The return to Virginia
After my stint at CRFO, my bride and I decided to return to the Old Dominion, which is where our hearts are. We, along with our now three children, moved to a little town in Hanover County called Ashland. I did a two-year assignment as an economic crimes division desk officer at NCIS headquarters at Marine Corps Base Quantico. In September 2016, I got the job I wanted and transferred to a counterintelligence/research, development, and acquisition billet at the nearby Naval Surface Weapons Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, where I became part of the small, three-person office. So far, the work has been very rewarding, as we support a lot of the U.S. Navy’s research and development into new weapons systems. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, I plan on staying at the Naval Surface Weapons Center until I retire, as my wife and I are happy in Ashland.
My time served with the VSP and later NCIS has been very fulfilling. I’ve gotten to serve our country, and NCIS afforded me the opportunity to see much of the world while assisting with the mission of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to fight and win. I attribute a lot of my ideas about service and sacrifice to my personal hero, my Dad, and the time I spent in the Corps. I think the Corps of Cadets has always done an excellent job in preparing young men and women for service to our country, no matter what occupation a cadet chooses upon graduation.
I would say to any young man or woman contemplating going to Virginia Tech that the Corps of Cadets is the place to be. You are part of something bigger than yourself. There is a sense of duty, and the motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) is practiced daily by cadets. Although my daughter chose to attend another great school, Christopher Newport University, I tell my two boys that if they want to go to Virginia Tech then the Corps is the way to go — besides it’s a family tradition!
I would never change anything about my time in the Corps. I was there during some of my formative years and the memories I have are some of my fondest. During my stint in the Corps, I ended up being tapped for the Gregory Guard and became a member of the German Club, along with my Old Lady, Nathan Collins. It was just such a great time of camaraderie and learning about what service to others really means.