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Civilian-Marine retires with 34 years of service

By Pamela Jackson | | September 3, 2009

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Tom Voth, project officer, Unit Move Systems, Marine Corps Systems Command, retired Friday with 34 years of combined military and civil service.

Voth, a young college student at Minnesota State University, became interested in the Marine Corps after watching the 1963 short-lived television series, "The Lieutenant" a Marine-Corps drama filmed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The series focused on the lives of young men who prided themselves on being U.S. Marines and symbolized the utmost in rigorous training and military perfection. 

It was that perfection and leadership that Voth said he was seeking that made him want to be a Marine.

Voth is originally from Red Wing, Minn., and graduated from Red Wing High School in 1961.  He graduated from college in 1966 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1967. 

Proudly, he shares that one of his classmates in the Basic Officer's Course was Gen. James Jones, former commandant of the Marine Corps, now Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. 

"We were called the ‘Boys of 67.’ From there, I went on to the Tank Officer's Course, which was a perfect fit for me since I had been a farm kid all of my life and was used to heavy equipment," he said.

Following a series of other billets and tours, Voth was transferred to Albany, Ga., where he served as an instructor for the Marine Corps Maintenance Management School, Marine Corps Logistics Support Base Atlantic in 1977. Prior to reporting to Albany, he served as the Inspector-Instructor at a tank unit in Syracuse, N.Y.

"I was told when I found out I was coming here that Albany was one of the Corps' best kept secrets.  The good life city here in Albany was my last duty station. Unfortunately, a serious car accident which occurred three weeks after my arrival, cut my career as an active duty Marine short.  After weeks in a coma and several months in the hospital, I came back and tried to stay on active duty as a Marine, but that didn't work," Voth said.  "I medically retired at the rank of major in 1980."

Voth said that during his break in service, he thought that since he was a farmer by nature, he would start farming here.

Laughing he said, "That didn't work out very well.  I gave that up and went to work at Jackson Heights Elementary School for a few years as a paraprofessional."

Voth later returned as a civilian-Marine in 1989 to work as a systems analyst on a mainframe system used exclusively by Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla., to compile and track Marine Corps equipment loaded on Maritime Prepositioned Force vessels.  

Voth worked on several information system changes over the years, but in 2006, he joined SYSCOM's Product Group 10 as the project officer for the Unit Move Systems, which are software application systems that the Marines use to deploy from their home stations to wherever they go in the world to fight. 

"This is done through coordination with United States Transportation Command and other systems within the Navy and Marine Corps.  Our job is to support the Marines and help them move whenever they need to very quickly in order to accomplish their mission," Voth added.

Steven J. Mullen, deputy program manager, Total Force Information Technology Systems, SYSCOM, said, "Tom is one of the hardest working and most reliable people I have worked with in my almost 22 years of combined military and federal service.  He is intelligent and patient and has been a mentor to three of the best Marine Corps captains the Corps has ever produced. Their professionalism is a direct result of them having worked for Tom which is a credit to his leadership and devoted love of the Marine Corps.  Tom dedicated his adult life to the Corps and the Marine Corps is a better place as a result."

Voth said he has worked for and with some outstanding people and is very grateful for the opportunities he has had in the Marine Corps and as a civilian-Marine.  

"Had I not joined the Marine Corps, I do not believe I would have experienced the things that I have or developed the same way as a person. It is what you make of it and a great opportunity.  It is true that the change is forever, even if you only stay four years.  The discipline and lessons learned remain with you for life," Voth said.

A coworker who shares the same workspace with Tom shared her thoughts on working with him for the past year.

"I met Tom shortly after he was retired from the Marine Corps and began working in data processing as a civilian employee. For the last year, it has been my privilege to work in the same area and observe him in action on a daily basis working and supporting the users," said Lottie Holloway, task manager for Smartronix, Inc., a contractor.  "Tom has shown an in depth knowledge and genuine concern for the systems he has been responsible for. He has a wonderful since of humor and is a pleasure to be around and he will be greatly missed." 

When asked about his retirement plans, Tom said that he and his wife, Orva, have been talking about it for a while.  

"She has been retired for six years and has been waiting on me to retire. We originally planned for me to retire earlier this summer so we could go to our home in Rainy Lake, Minnesota near the Canadian border but decided to postpone it.  Our house is located near International Falls, Minn., also considered the coldest spot in the nation in the winter," Voth said.

Voth said he recently bought a boat and plans to spend his retirement living here in the winter as a snow bird and in Minnesota during the summer months after picking blackberries from their blackberry patch.  

"We plan to travel back and forth and spend time with the grandkids.  Orva has already showed me a brochure regarding a trip to Russia, so I guess we will be going there too," he said.

Voth said the Marine Corps is a wonderful organization that still focuses on integrity and its core values. 

"The Marine Corps has gone through a lot of changes over the years and change is good. We still talk about the mission and getting the job done. I have had some great leaders and in turn, they taught me to be a leader as well," he said.

Voth concluded by saying that his parting advice to others is to simply work hard and reflect on the values that his parents taught him which helped him through his career as a Marine and still apply today.

"My parents taught me to be happy with what you get, that I am no better than anyone else and to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Those are the same values that I took with me into my career as a Marine.

“As the oldest of three siblings, my youngest brother and I joined the Marine Corps and have had great careers.  We are part of a band of brothers - once a Marine, always a Marine," he said.

Recently retired Marine Maj. Scott Kemp, who worked closely with Voth for several years, said that Tom provided exceptional support to the Marine Corps during his tenure as a government civilian. 

"He was an invaluable resource to a new project officer and his presence will be missed, both here in Albany and across the Corps."


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