An extraordinary U.S. Army career came to an end this spring as Lt. Col. Jimmy Mullinax, commander of Clemson University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, retired on the same stage where he was commissioned 21 years earlier.
Army officers do not get to choose their assignments, so getting orders to come back to Clemson was a highly unusual but serendipitous twist in Mullinax’s career.
“How do you get to go back to your alma mater?” he asked during his retirement ceremony. “I only have one answer for that: God brought me back here. Because it wasn’t my doing, and it couldn’t have been the Army because it made no sense. It was orchestrated for me to come back, and I’m blessed to be here.”
Retired Col. Eric Schwartz, who was assistant professor of military science for Clemson’s ROTC in the early 90s, returned to help retire the young officer he had mentored more than two decades before and recalled the instantly recognizable potential of the young cadet he knew. “I wanted to tell stories about little Jimmy Mullinax when he was a cadet in the Army ROTC program, and I was his instructor. I wanted to tell you stories about Jimmy getting lost in the woods, or showing up late for physical training, or losing his weapon, or [being] afraid to rappel of a cliff — but I got nothing,” said Schwartz. “From the moment he stepped out on the parade fields of Clemson he was a beautiful young man to serve with. Everything about him represented what we believed were the core values of being a good soldier, a good leader and a good American.”
Mullinax graduated from Clemson in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the quartermaster branch (supply and logistics support), detailed to the Air Defense Artillery Branch. He earned a Master of Military Studies from the Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. He went on to hold numerous positions of leadership in quartermaster and logistic elements, including two tours of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, culminating in an assignment to Fort Knox, Kentucky, prior to returning to Clemson.
Mullinax said it was a blessing to return to Clemson in a military capacity, because the school has such a rich military history and goes out of its way to support its ROTC program. He returned to the theme of being blessed throughout his remarks, emphasizing a point made at many Army retirements; he only got through the last 21 years because of his faith and his family. He noted that he and his wife, Angie, moved their family to nine different duty stations together over the course of his career.
He closed by addressing all the people who had taken the time to be there for this seminal moment in his life. “I started this saying I was blessed. I hope you can truly see why I’m blessed. It’s not about me. It’s about you and what you’ve done in my life. You’ve given me the best life I could ever dream of. Continue to support our military men and women.”