By Cpl. Laura Gauna
NEW YORK – Looking at the faces of the men he’s served with in combat, at home and abroad, Col. James J. Maxwell, a New York State Trooper and Marine, says goodbye to the Marine Corps for the last time.
“I thought for a while how I would sum up my career in the Marine Corps,” said Maxwell, a native of Mahopac, N.Y., pointing to a picture in the room. “There is a picture here where I am flying in the arms of a bunch of Marines. I didn’t warn anyone I was going to jump, but I knew they would catch me. I always looked at my career as standing on the shoulders of Marines. If you are riding on the shoulders of your Marines, you never have to worry about falling.”
On June 26, 2014, Maxwell retired after devotedly serving 32 years in both the active duty and the Marine Corps Reserves.
Brigadier Gen. Vincent Coglianese, 1st Marine Logistics Group Commanding General, and a longtime friend of Maxwell, officiated the retirement ceremony to honor his service.
“As I stand here tonight, I think [about] what that moment, what that time in Col. Maxwell’s career was that he was called to serve, and I’ve come to find out that there is no specific time,” said Brig. Gen. Coglianese. “It is the culmination of a whole career. It’s all the lives you have touched while serving. It’s the hundreds of thousands of Marines that Col. Maxwell has served with or has influenced. Jim, on behalf of the whole Marine Corps and everybody you served with and all the lives you have protected, I want to thank you on behalf of the Commandant for your successful career.”
On May 12, 1984, Maxwell was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Following graduation from the Infantry Officer Course, Maxwell was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, as a rifle platoon commander. He deployed with the 13th Marine Amphibious Unit in 1986, and later attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 1988, as an operations liaison officer, and heavy weapons platoon commander.
Completing his active duty term in 1989 as the Executive Officer for Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Maxwell transferred to the selected Marine Corps Reserve as a rifle platoon commander with 25th Marine Regiment.
It was at this point that he donned his uniform as a New York State Trooper.
“After completing my active service, I realized that my skillset was best set for law enforcement. I took every test imaginable and that first job was called for from was the New York State Police Department. I’ve never looked back,” he said.
Maxwell was activated in 1990 and deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“Our war in the desert was like that in Vietnam,” he recalled. “We were fighting in what was called a ‘waffle forest,’ which was very much like rice patties. There were a lot of berms, foliage and hilltop areas. We were basically fighting an elusive enemy.”
Maxwell returned to the reserves in 1991, and in 1995 he was assigned as the Intelligence Officer and Scout Sniper Platoon Commander of 2nd Bn., 25th Marine Reg.
During this time, he participated in Joint Combined Exercise Battle Griffin-99. Later, from April 2000 to May 2001, he assumed the duties of battalion executive officer.
Tragedy struck the nation on September 11, 2001. When the World Trade Center towers were attacked, the U.S. Central Command responded by creating a Joint Interagency Coordination Group. Maxwell was then assigned to Special Operations Component Command, CENTCOM, as the Chief of Joint Fires for the planning and execution phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and returned to the newly designated Joint Interagency Coordination Group as Chief of Operations.
The JICG is a full-time, multifunctional advisory element of the combatant commander’s staff that facilitates information sharing throughout the interagency community. The JICG bridges the gap between civilian and military operational coordination across the spectrum of crisis prevention, conflict intervention, transition and post-conflict reconstruction.
“I think terrorism changed the paradigm of interagency cooperation with law enforcement because it became about the common mission,” said Maxwell. “Everyone needs to cooperate because the threat is real and personal. These people want to kill you, so it changes the urgency and level of cooperation. Living in New York, where the wounds of 9/11 are still very raw, this is key. At the end of the day, everyone is threatened so everyone has to work together to counter this threat. It takes a network to defeat a network.”
As the war waged on, Maxwell was activated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002 and assigned as an Operations and Intelligence Officer to the Joint Interagency Task Force, U.S. Central Command. During this period, Maxwell deployed to Afghanistan, in support of interagency counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
His experience in this field transitioned well into his line of work with the New York State Troopers, where he was assigned to an anti-terrorism unit.
In July 2010, Maxwell transferred to Marine Forces Command, where he most recently served as an Individual Mobilization Augmentation, G-3/5/7.
“I look at the end of my 32 years in the Marine Corps and realize it’s been my life. It’s going to be real hard to let go; I probably never will.”