Col. Jeffrey Hooks, commanding officer office of Marine Depot Maintenance Command, has been in his current post since taking over for Col. Stephen Medeiros in August. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
MCLB-ALBANY — In order to deliver working equipment to protect the warfighters in the U.S. Marine Corps, there are two production plants — one located in Barstow, Calif. and another in Albany — operating under Marine Depot Maintenance Command, a tenant command of Marine Corps Logistics Command headquartered at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.
In his current role, the job of Col. Jeffrey Hooks, commanding officer of Marine Depot Maintenance Command, is to keep MDMC intact and eventually bring two cultures from opposite ends of the country together.
From a young age, the father of three and Gainesville, Fla., native knew he wanted a career in the military — being partly inspired by a brother who is now retired from the Corps.
“I have a history of family serving in the Corps, so it is the gold standard,” he said. “When I was asked what I wanted to do (when I grew up), for me, it was always serving in the military.”
This is actually his second time serving in Albany, having previously been here as the director of the Marine Corps Logistics Command (LOGCOM) Logistics Operations Center from 2008 to 2011.
“I’ve got previous knowledge of this place,” he said. “My wife is from Wilcox County, so this was like coming home … I didn’t ask (to come here). Like a good Marine, I was assigned. Rarely do Marines get assigned (near where they grew up). The plant knows my wife’s side of the family.”
Out of his three children, a daughter and two sons, two are out of the house and one is about to be married. They have since established connections of their own to the military, Valdosta State University, or both.
“They are typical Marine brats,” the colonel said.
From Hooks’ perspective, the military culture in Southwest Georgia is unique in that, in many military communities with larger bases, there is a much greater saturation — which means you see virtually nothing but military personnel. Here, on the other hand, the Marines make up roughly a tenth of the work force aboard MCLB-Albany — which creates an atmosphere and interaction outside of the fence line many military communities do not have.
“The thing that makes this different is there are (approximately) 300 Marines,” Hooks said. “When you only have that, you get to know the community a lot more … At Fort Bragg (and other places) you are just another soldier. A lot of the community works on the base, and they have a lot of respect for the Corps.”
In his role, Hooks has the responsibility of leading the production plants through a reset in the Marine Corps’ focus that is taking place after 12 years of fighting — which is now forcing many to relearn certain principles.
“My leadership style is firm and fair and (with) high expectations of what our Marines should be doing,” he said. ” … I’m lucky enough to be a colonel serving Marines and leading Marines.
“I’m not a believer in remote control leadership. Good leaders are servants; bad leaders are tyrants.”
The motto at the production plant is: “What we do is important; everyday a Marine’s life may depend on it.” The impact of their work is recognized by how devoted the personnel is to that message, but there is a drawback to being on the industrial side of the Corps.
“Business is sometimes a compromise, and for a Marine, that is hard to do,” Hooks said. “It is a fundamental change in how Marines do things. (We see things) in black and white; you see bad guys, you go get the bad guys.
“We operate this place like a business. If I’m not providing the best option, I expect (clients) to take their business elsewhere. It’s not really a negative, but it is a different mindset.”
On that vein, the short term goal will be to continue to provide equipment support as Marines need it in a timely manner. In the long-term, the goal will be to focus on following through with the consolidation of the two plants that created MDMC in February 2012.
“(The long-term goal) is to eventually have the two production plants follow the same policy plans and procedures … to pull the production plants into the same (umbrella),” the colonel said. “We’ve established a road map to do that (which includes) milestones over the next two years. We are getting a lot of help from LOGCOM in overseeing that process. It won’t happen overnight.
“There is 40-50 years of practice at the plants and two different cultures. You don’t just flip a light switch, (it needs to be done) while not impacting production.”
To that end, Hooks also addressed the expansion and contraction that sometimes happens to the work force as expectations and requirements change at the plants.
“(The objective) at the end of the day is to provide support,” he said. “To do that effectively, job security at both plants will take care of itself.”
When it comes time to leave, he said, it will likely be the people making up the work force that he will miss the most.
“There have been some guys who have been working here for 40 years,” Hooks said. “The diverse work force is the strength of this command … I wish I could bring in more Marines to thank them for what they are doing.”
Hooks was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Officer Candidates Class program in December 1987. After completing The Basic School in Quantico, Va., and the Basic Logistics Officers Course at Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va., he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, Calif.
His most recent prior assignment was as the assistant chief of staff G4, I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward at Camp Pendleton and assistant chief of staff C4 Regional Command Southwest in Helmand Province, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Hooks holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in public relations and telecommunications from Valdosta State College. He is a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., and he earned a master’s degree from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. The colonel’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Bronze Star Medal with Combat V and Two Gold Stars, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Joint Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.