Community Highlight: An interview with retired Marine Corps Major General, T.S. Jones

Community Highlight: An interview with retired Marine Corps Major General, T.S. Jones

The Apollo community is a diverse community who all share a common belief – that the human body is powerful and we have the capacity to heal. We'll highlight powerful stories from Apollo users and their causes through a series of member features. 

T.S. Jones is a retired Marine Corps Major General and founder and Executive Director of Outdoor Odyssey, a leadership and mentoring program through a unique wilderness experience. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for over four decades, Jones has been dedicating his energy to create a team-building  experience based on the principles and ideals garnered in the Marine Corps. He’s always searching for healing modalities, particularly for veterans and troubled youth, which led him to find Apollo Neuro. Read on to learn more.

Tell us about yourself. How’d you get where you are now?

As a troubled youth, I was engaged by a mentor, responsible for leading me to college where I made a commitment to graduate. The death of a friend in Viet Nam who had left college to join the Marines, inspired me to likewise join the Marine Corps upon graduation. By virtue of being a college graduate, I became an infantry officer, spending time in Viet Nam as a platoon commander. Upon my return from Viet Nam, I was confident that I would leave the Corps after my initial obligation; however, experiences led me to a three-decade plus adventure that I wouldn’t change for anything in life. 

Experiencing no shortage of high adventure, team bonding and dynamic leadership, I vowed early on in my Marine Corps career to create a leadership academy upon my retirement from the Corps to help children in need succeed in school, thereby increasing their ability to succeed in life. 

What was the process of actually starting a leadership academy?

My Marine Corps career could only be categorized as an experience in personal and professional growth through adventure, so Outdoor Odyssey became a nonprofit to provide inspirational leadership through mentoring focused on building young leaders who would gain leadership experience the only way possible: by leading others. These young leaders are themselves mentored by community leaders. I spent my entire career as an infantryman, blessed with countless experiences of high adventure, enabling me to take these experiences and package them for children of all ages.   

It seems like Outdoor Odyssey is just one of the hats that you wear to stay busy. 

Outdoor Odyssey became a long-held dream of my afterlife upon leaving the Corps. While I never anticipated conducting sessions for wounded warriors, that too became a rather natural evolution based on my career as a Marine. Moreover, upon my retirement, in addition to my voluntary role as Executive Director of Outdoor Odyssey, I agreed to become an Adjunct Staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), placing me in an active role for ongoing projects regarding combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Additionally, upon retirement I became a Board Member for the Semper Fi Fund, easily the most successful nonprofit in working with warriors and their families.  My work with Outdoor Odyssey, led to the creation of Semper Fi Odyssey for wounded, ill and injured Marines, and the experiences of the sessions with warriors inspired me to recruit renown mental health professionals that eventually led me to conduct two major studies under the aegis of IDA and for the DoD regarding mental health.  These two studies undoubtedly led me to reshape Semper Fi Odyssey from what one might categorize as a transition course to one that focused with laser-like intensity on mental fitness, with an emphasis on mental health injuries and illnesses.

What lessons do you pull from your experience as Major General in the Marine Corps?

My Marine Corps experiences provided me a foundation for creating leadership development, team building and mentoring for children. After initial success, I expanded to provide similar experiences for various educational institutions/groups that would provide revenue to support youth in need that were NOT charged for the year-long mentoring services.  

9/11 inspired me to remain in the Marine Corps four years beyond my original plan to retire; during these four additional years, I was the head of all training and education in the Marine Corps, with an almost total orientation to ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

What was the awareness around mental health at this point in the Marine Corps?

I would like to say that I had a good understanding of mental health issues that both of those theaters of war were spawning, but I was in the military when suck-it-up was the uniform approach to handling those who came forth with mental health issues. My extensive experiences in preparing warriors for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan provided me countless ideas from which I crafted the initial stages of our approach to Semper Fi Odyssey; moreover, my involvement with the Semper Fi Fund provided me continuous interaction with wounded warriors upon my retirement, hastening my understanding that TBI and PTSD were to become the signature wounds of combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

How did you first learn about Apollo?

I discovered Apollo Neuro after the co-founder, Dr. Rabin was one of the finalists in a competition conducted by one of the hospitals in Pittsburgh. I was asked to provide my perspective on the projects submitted by a select group of finalists, and the connection to PTSD obviously caught my attention, as by that time we were knee deep in warriors who were struggling mightily with PTSD and/or TBI. Dr. Rabin and Kathryn spent quality time at one of our sessions of Semper Fi Odyssey, with the original Apollo prototype. The impact was immediately recognized, especially regarding its calming effect and ability to help one sleep.  

The Apollo device naturally augments our work with warriors, as the vast majority at this juncture struggle with stress-related issues. Unfortunately, our sessions had to take an 18-month hiatus due the pandemic. My grandson, Zachary, got a device following his being hit by a car and receiving a severe TBI; it’s helped in any number of ways, especially regarding his ability to focus. 

How do you use Apollo?

I use several of the modes routinely, with special emphasis on sleep, calming (Relax and Unwind), and focus. As I often have trouble getting back to sleep in the middle of the night after awakening, the ability to re-access the device for an extended period provides what I would categorize as an unparalleled capability. I’m one who doesn’t ever need an assist to get me going (energy and wake up), but the menu items aligned with meditation/mindfulness and recovering after exercise have proven to be quite effective at times when I feel the need for one reason or another.  

What do you hope Outdoor Odyssey attendees leave with?

We strive valiantly to have each individual leave with a personal strategy for handling day-to-day stressors, along with a bona fide team of support for follow-on activities and definitive goals, supported by a workable plan of action. I have aggressively incorporated Dr. Bruce Perry’s neuro-sequential model of care, promoting vigorously the approach of regulate, relate, reason. 

It is obvious to all involved that we have found a recipe to substantially increase our success with both adults and children. Unfortunately, we continue to see countless individuals who have undergone lengthy periods of various therapies, while continuing to struggle with day-to-day stressors that appear to derail any hope of therapeutic success. In my experience, it’s been clear that Apollo works very effectively for those who undertake its use in companion with an understanding of basic neurobiology, coupled with an appreciation of usable strategies such as breathing, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, tai chi, dance, prayer, music, etc. etc. to help them ameliorate stress. 

We strive to ensure that everyone spending time on the mountain possesses an understanding of the “basics” and then creates a strategy for the use of this same understanding and Apollo helps us do that.