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From Ole Miss to United States Marine Corps – A Career of Service

Payne center

An environment of military service can mold a life in the most honorable of ways and bring out character traits of respect, consideration and determination that many people never realized they had until they’re faced with certain situations.

John G. Payne Jr., Lieutenant Colonel (Retired), United States Marine Corps graduated from Ole Miss in 1989 with a B.A. in Journalism.

Payne1Payne was an air force brat until his dad removed himself from active duty to go back to his hometown of Lucedale, Miss. to help his father in his business, so Payne grew up for the most part in Lucedale. His father was also in the Air National Guard in Jackson, so the young Payne was very familiar with a military environment from a young age.

“I lived in Lucedale from about the 4th grade,” Payne said, “until I went into the 8th grade when we moved to Byram, Miss. which is just south of Jackson. I graduated from Byram High School and then went on to Millsaps College for my freshman year.”

Payne said he ultimately ended up at Ole Miss on a music scholarship before discovering his interest in journalism.

“The drum major for the band at that time was a young lady named Malissa Lambert,” Payne said, “and she was also the editor of the Daily Mississippian. She was the person who initiated me trying out for the Ole Miss band, but in talking to her I suddenly found myself interested in journalism as well as music. So for a while, I was a double major and then eventually just dropped the music performance major altogether.”

Payne said that he did perform in the symphony, the jazz and marching bands, but before long concentrated only on his journalism pursuit.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Payne said he knocked around for a while, trying to find his niche, briefly working for an insurance company before taking the position as public affairs officer and consumer counselor for the Miss. Attorney General’s Office (Mike Moore).

“After my stint with the Attorney General’s office, I went to work as an associate account executive for Maris, West & Baker Advertising and Public Relations in Jackson,” he said. “I worked there from 1990 to 1991, when the advertising market sort of plummeted due to the Gulf War that was going on at the time. Some advertisers didn’t know how to handle 24 hour news coverage about war and began pulling their ads. Smaller firms like Maris, West & Baker got hit the worst and they had to lay people off. Unfortunately, I was one of them.”

After that he moved to Hattiesburg and went to work for Cellular South, where he became very interested in the technology of communications. He also began to take note of the men and women returning home from the Gulf War, and after having been exposed to the military life from his younger years, decided to enlist in the marines.

John G. Payne Jr.
John G. Payne Jr.

“I had so many vets in my family,” he said. “One of my uncles was in the Marines and had gone to Parris Island, so I decided that was something that I wanted to do. I went to boot camp there and that’s where my military career began.”

In 1994 Payne was commissioned via the Enlisted Commissioning Program (ECP), and as a lieutenant and frocked Captain he served as the Communications Officer and Commanding Officer of Headquarters Battery, 3D Battalion, 10TH Marines.

As a captain his tour at Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) from 1999 to 2004 included assignments as a C4 Ground Task Force Command and Control Systems Product Group, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC).

As a Project Officer at MCSC, he led a deployed team to Kuwait in 2003 in direct support of the I Marine Expeditionary Force Command Element during Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2003 he was nominated for the Higgins Award for Acquisitions Excellence, and his project team was recognized in 2004 with a Commanding General’s Excellence in Logistics Award.

During his MCSC tour he attained Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level II certification in Program Management, and successfully advocated multiple programs before Program Evaluation Groups (PEGs) and Program Objective Memorandum (POM) Working Groups (PWGs) across three POM cycles.

In July 2004 he was promoted to Major, and assumed duties as Officer-in-Charge of the Marine Communications Detachment, Amphibious Group THREE (CPG-3), Naval Station San Diego, where he supervised upgrades and installations of more than $10 million in “Blue-in-support of Green” C4 assets aboard 12 L-Class amphibious ships. In addition he deployed aboard Strike Group flagships in the Northern Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Payne was selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in February 2009. His personal awards include the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal (gold star in lieu of fourth award), and the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

LtCol John Payne, Jr. and Korean War Veteran Sergeant Major Norm Sponcey (USMC Ret) celebrate the 2011 Marine Corps Birthday Ceremony, Fort Huahcuca, AZ, November 2011
LtCol John Payne, Jr. and Korean War Veteran Sergeant Major Norm Sponcey (USMC Ret) celebrate the 2011 Marine Corps Birthday Ceremony, Fort Huahcuca, AZ, November 2011

Today, Payne is retired from the Marines after spending 20 years in service. He obtained a master’s degree in management in 2000 from George Mason University through the Navy Tuition Assistance program and is a part-time instructor at Cochise College’s Center for Lifelong Learning in Sierra Vista, Ariz., where he has lived since 2009.

He is also a certified NRA instructor, teaching marksmanship, self-defense, and gun safety in Sierra Vista.

“From early hunting trips just watching my Dad,” Payne said, “to Marine Corps boot camp, Fleet Marine Force rifle and pistol matches as a young enlisted Marine, to close-quarter battle training and carrying a weapon in multiple combat zones. Guns and the responsibilities they impart have helped shaped who I am as a productive and responsible American.”

Payne is passionate about the marksmanship and self-defense classes he teaches and has his own Facebook page called ‘A Good Guy With A Gun’ to educate people about the responsibilities that go along with gun ownership.

He also spends a lot of time riding with a memorial cavalry unit called Troop B, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial) from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he is Sergeant Trooper and Armorer.

“The Army has eight such units, but we’re the only volunteer unit,” Payne said. “The Army uses them as recruiting tools on other posts and forts. We have 15 horses and probably ride in ceremonies and events about 20 hours per week.”

Payne has always had a love for Oxford since his college days and his father, John G. Payne Sr., gives him irrefutable ties to the city now, by being a permanent resident there. Throughout his military career, Payne has given credit to Ole Miss and its professors for teaching him the one thing that has carried him through the present point in his life: the writing, editing and analysis skills he learned while at the university.

“While I didn’t continue in the journalism field per se after leaving Maris/West,” Payne said, “the writing, editing and analysis skills imparted by Dr. Ed Meek, Dr. Jeanni Atkins and Dean Will Norton were incredibly valuable in my being competitive in promotions as an officer in the Corps. They often were THE critical factor that set me apart from my peers in evaluations.”

Payne is currently working on a book that captures the history and spirit of the U.S. Cavalry and highlights the participation of B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century, including the capture of Geronimo.

Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com.

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