Jones Assumes Role as Senior Enlisted Leader for the W.Va. Guard

  • Published
  • By Edwin Wriston

Command Sgt. Maj. James D. “Dusty” Jones has been selected as the Senior Enlisted Leader (SEL) for the West Virginia National Guard, effective Nov. 5, 2020.

In his new role as SEL, the highest enlisted rank a Soldier can achieve in the WVNG, Jones will serve as an advisor to the Adjutant General on all matters pertaining to the enlisted force of Soldiers and Airmen in West Virginia.

Born in Hinton and growing up in Forest Hills in Summers County, West Virginia, Jones has led an exemplary military career, taking on ever-increasing responsibility and leadership. But the military wasn’t in his original plans.

While Jones was busy filling out college scholarship applications his senior year of high school at Summers County High, an unplanned phone call rang his home. It was the local Army recruiter who asked to speak with him about service. Less than a week later, Jones found himself at the Military Entrance and Processing Station in Beckley, West Virginia, raising his right hand.

“I had never contemplated joining U.S. Army,” stated Jones. “It was an opportunity for me to do something I hadn’t considered before, and looking back, I am so very thankful I made that decision and set my life on the path I am on.”

Jones attended initial entry training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the summer of 1996. Upon basic training graduation, Jones was assigned to 117th Field Artillery in Schweinfurt, Germany, where he was deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor/Operation Joint Guard.

After completing his service in Europe, Jones’ next assignment was with the 218th Field Artillery, Fort Lewis, Washington, where he wrapped up his remaining tour on active duty in the Army.

Leaving active duty in 2000, Jones joined the West Virginia Army National Guard and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery as a team chief. While with the 1/201st,  he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II where he served as a gun truck squad leader performing route and convoy security missions.

Upon returning from deployment, Jones was assigned to the 77th Brigade Troop Command as an operations NCO where he remained until being selected as the First Sergeant of the 154th Military Police Company. Jones then moved on to serve as the First Sergeant for the 157th Military Police Company before being selected as the Command Sergeant Major for the WVARNG Recruiting and Retention Battalion in 2017. On Nov. 1, 2018, Jones stepped into his most recent role as State Command Sergeant Major for the WVARNG where he has served with distinction.

When asked about what it means to him to be selected for this new leadership role, Jones was quick to answer.

“The opportunity to have positive impact upon and lead the entire joint force means a lot to me,” he said. “I am excited and very passionate about the organization and the Soldiers and Airmen who make up our WVNG.  As SEL, I can help shape the organization and continue to foster a strong ethos of mentorship and team building on both the Army and Air Force sides of our house so important to our future successes.”

Diversity, inclusion, and helping to foster unique talents and skill sets among the force are priorities to the new SEL.

“A goal I enter the position with, is to push the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) corps to focus on taking every asset they have, especially in regard to their people, and to build strong teams highlighting each Soldier or Airmen’s unique talents,” said Jones. “We have such a diverse force, with so many gifted and passionate Soldiers and Airmen. We must ensure that we are taking advantage of every opportunity to make our Soldiers and Airmen better warriors and develop them into autonomous leaders. Putting people in the right positions at the right time with the right support will benefit the entire Guard, the individual member and their families, and those we serve. Utilizing people in their most effective roles makes serving a better experience going forward and is critical in building and retaining a dedicated and strong force.”

While focusing on professional and personal development of the force is paramount in maintaining and being able to move the force forward, according to Jones, knowing and understanding history is just as critical.

“As NCOs and younger enlisted members, we all need to make sure we understand the history of the nation and our military service,” stated Jones. “It is easy to get lost as a part of today and focus solely on what we are and where we are right now. It’s important however to understand the past… the long line of individuals and missions and campaigns that built the legacy and history we stand on… and how impactful our military, and specifically our National Guard, has been and is to our nation. Where we came from. We need to understand the sacrifices, struggles, battles, accomplishments and achievements that help us to define who we are today as a force and as individuals servicemembers.”

From this foundation of understanding we can move forward more effectively, and with a greater awareness of the import role we serve in society and our state every day we put on and lace up our boots, Jones added.

“I couldn’t be more confident in the selection of Dusty to be the SEL and to lead our enlisted force forward in the years to come,” stated Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia Adjutant General. “Dusty has an infectious enthusiasm and a firm focus on making the WVNG the absolute best military organization in the nation to serve in. He truly cares about the men and women whom he serves with and wants to make their time in uniform the very best for them and their families that it can be. He is a true asset to our state, and I am looking forward to his leadership in the SEL role.”