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Second tour in Iraq feels right

Army officer takes major changes in stride
by Katelyn Wysznski (’07)

Jeffrey Farmer (’88) receives a Bronze Star for his work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Jeffrey Farmer (’88) receives a Bronze Star for his work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

U. S. Army officer and ROTC program graduate Jeffrey Farmer (’88) says his career is “constantly changing. One minute I’m a high-school athletics director, the next I’m in Iraq as a program manager.”

Awarded Bronze Star

The physical education major earned a Bronze Star for his 2005 work supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. The medal was for exceptionally meritorious service planning and executing facilities for the Ministry of Defense Armed Forces. “I’ve always enjoyed building as a hobby,” says Farmer, whose first construction experience was working at a camp in Madison County as a student. At first, the work was frustrating, but some encouragement from good friend and NASA engineer Louie Gonzales motivated him to complete the job, return to campus and put his new work ethic to use in ROTC.

Growing up in Alexandria, Farmer was familiar with the military lifestyle. He played baseball and football at Fork Union Military Academy. “I came to JMU to play football but enjoyed the military discipline I received at FUMA . ... I took an orienteering class with Capt. Kench, who told me about the ROTC scholarship program. I applied, and the rest is history. ROTC paid for school and I had a job waiting after graduation.”

ROTC alums Pamela Guthrie Farmer (’90) and Jeffrey Farmer (’88) and their daughters, Aubrey, Cameron and Whitney.

ROTC alums Pamela Guthrie Farmer (’90) and Jeffrey Farmer (’88) and their daughters, Aubrey, Cameron and Whitney.

Married ROTC alumna Pamela Guthrie ('90)

Farmer met his future wife, Pamela Guthrie Farmer (’90), a fellow ROTC member, when she lost her student ID. “When I met her at the police station to return her ID, I dropped it while handing it to her. We both reached down to pick it up, and we bumped heads … I think that’s when Cupid hit us. We got married a year later.”

Public education career

After graduation, Farmer served as a highway construction inspector for the Virginia Department of Transportation. He then completed an engineer officer basic course and went into education. “I’ve been in public education for almost 20 years as a coach, teacher, athletics director, assistant principal and principal. I feel like I have done it all. I’ve coached in state championships and administered schools with the best SOL [Standards of Learning] scores in the state,” he says.

Farmer also teaches ROTC as an assistant military science professor at JMU, Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia, where he earned his master’s in education. He was mobilized and deployed in 2005 from Hot Springs, Va., where he was working as an athletics director, teacher and coach at Bath County High School.

“I feel I’m in the right place doing the right thing.”

Called to a higher mission

“Working with kids was a lot of fun and rewarding but sometimes you get called to a higher mission. You watch the war news at home, and then you come to Iraq and see it for yourself.” Back in Iraq for a second tour, Farmer says, “I feel I’m in the right place doing the right thing.”

Working 10- to 14-hour days, seven days a week, Farmer is program manager for the Multi-National Security Transition Command’s Southern Police Station. He checks on new and renovated Iraqi police station construction and helps develop new projects. He also visits a school in Baghdad at least once a month to deliver much-needed school supplies. “I enjoy what I’m doing, and hopefully next year I can be back home with Pamela and our three daughters [Whitney, Cameron and Aubrey] and return to public education.”