DECATUR, Ga. –
U.S. Army Col. Jeff C. Rector believes his new command isn’t really about taking charge; it actually means working on behalf of others.
“To me, leadership is about serving the people who are on your team and the community,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s much bigger than me.”
Rector became commander of the 642nd Regional Support Group on Feb. 25 during a ceremony at the Reserve unit’s headquarters in Decatur, Ga. His position oversees several thousand Soldiers in 28 subordinate units throughout the southeastern United States – including Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.
He replaced Col. Wanda M. Hawley, who will now become the rear detachment commander of the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), which is being deployed this year.
Brig. Gen. Deborah L. Kotulich, commanding general of the 143rd ESC, praised Rector for his willingness to take the job on short notice and said his previous military work prepared him well for the position.
“He’s been on the front end of re-engineering our training to focus on survivability skills, which are shoot, move, communicate, medicate, decontaminate and sustain,” she said. “I’m excited for him to bring that perspective to the 642nd.”
Rector, a native of Texas, first became interested in the military when a recruiting effort staged a drill and ceremony demonstration at his high school. He enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1985, working his way up to sergeant as a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare Soldier before joining ROTC at Prairie View A&M University.
He was drawn in the profession of arms based on the army values, a sense of mission, purpose, determination and teamwork that Soldiers exhibit daily – especially during times of crisis.
“When we say we’re going to do something, we do everything in our power to make it happen,” Rector said. “It definitely had to do with the commitment to something greater than oneself.”
After earning both a Bachelors of Arts degree in political science and his commission as a distinguished honor graduate, he entered active duty in 1992. He would later earn his Masters of Business Administration from Our Lady of the Lake University in Houston, Texas, and a Master’s of Science in Strategic Studies at the United States Army War College.
He served in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 with the 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, seeing first-hand the advantages provided by the civilian trades of Army Reserve Soldiers. The unit’s members included lawyers and electricians.
“A lot of people there had very specialized skills,” Rector said, noting they were able to review contracted projects on behalf of the Iraqi populace to make sure jobs were done correctly.
This philosophy of “service culture” is one that he advocates, along with the need to never give up and never accepting defeat.
“It’s a corny phrase, but I really try to live by this, ‘Mission first, people always,’” Rector said. “I want to motivate everyone to be the best they can be…I’m all in and want to make sure the unit is all in as well.”
He wants to see troops under the 642nd RSG be able to conduct their missions in any environment at any time by incorporating real-life scenarios into training. This, he noted, may involve reaching out to the civilian community as part of carefully planned mock disaster exercises.
In civilian life, Rector works as a management consultant at IBM. Currently, he’s assigned as Chief, Infrastructure Solutions Group at the Defense Information Systems Agency at Fort Meade, Md. His awards include a Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Services Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
Now having joined the 642nd RSG, he plans to do a lot of visiting the subordinate units and aiming to foster a familial atmosphere among the troops.
“We’re family and we’re going to treat each other as a family,” Rector said. “I want to know what makes the Soldiers tick…to make sure we’re all pulling the same way,” he said.