The way Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross sees it, his dream of becoming a professional football player wasn’t meant to be.
But as fate would have it, he would become an Army officer; earn a star and eventually take the mantle of commanding general of the Quartermaster Center and School.
“I’ve been blessed, blessed beyond measure,” said the 50-year-old Cross, who is also the 50th quartermaster general. “There were several individuals who could have had this position who were qualified to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
“However, it was my time and I was selected.
“I think all of our steps are ordered by God.”
Cross’ first steps began in the Army town of Lawton, Okla., adjacent to Fort Sill. He was the fourth of eight children born to retired Sgt. 1st Class Vernon (now deceased) and Naomi Loretta Cross. Vernon was a career Army cook. Naomi was a homemaker and commissary employee. He said their lives were in a constant state of transition.
“We moved from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Hawaii,” said Cross. “We were probably stationed at Fort Polk twice, stationed at Fort Sill maybe three times, moving eight kids and a dog,” he said.
Cross emphasized that he and his siblings had a great life, never went without food or clothing, and were always around the military.
“We had a normal childhood, or what we thought was normal,” he said.
Cross was all but normal when it came to athletics, however. He was competitive, athletic, savvy and personable and found success in high school wrestling, track and field and football.
“He was a great athlete, as good as anybody I ever coached,” said Orval “Bo” Bowman, Cross’ football coach at Lawton High School and an Oklahoma prep coaching legend. “He was always upbeat, optimistic and happy, a great person.”
Bowman has no trouble recalling the time when Cross grappled his way to placing at the state wrestling tourney; or the football game against Moore High School in which Cross “Just ran wild,” gaining “…about 270 yards all by himself.”
Those talents propelled Cross to athletic stardom. The running back/nose guard earned all state honors in football and was named the school’s outstanding athlete in 1975. He was so confident in his abilities that he decided to disregard an application to attend West Point (and its preparatory academy) in favor of West Texas State – via a football scholarship.
Cross played four years for the Buffaloes, was successful and thought he was ready for the next step.
“I thought I did very well,” he said, noting that two National Football League teams came out to scout him.
But it wasn’t meant to be. By the beginning of his junior year, it became apparent to him that he wouldn’t make it to the NFL, although he continued to play football. He signed on with the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program and started the ball rolling in another direction.
It was meant to be.
“I always wanted to be in the Army,” he said. “I loved marching the ROTC cadets and I felt that (the Army) was the job for me.”
He graduated in 1979, and the former small-town football star was now an Army officer. Notably,his career began at Fort Sill and has taken him to assignments in Korea; Germany; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Riley, Kan.; and the Middle East region during the first Gulf War.
Prior to his current position, Cross held the top spot at the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia. He was promoted at DSCP to his current rank in 2005. He took command of the QMC&S Oct. 26 amid looming issues such as Army transformation, Base Realignment and Closure and Logistics Corps transition. He looks upon those challenges with all the savvy and enthusiasm that made him a star athlete.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “There’s no longer a status quo. The Army is transforming and the Quartermaster Corps must transform.”
In less than two months on the job, Cross knows there is some level of uncertainty with so much happening all at once. But there is one thing that is certain: he has to take care of the war-fighters.
“My concentration is on those service men and women who are fighting this Global War on Terror and those Civilians and Families who are supporting them,” he stressed. “That’s my focus.”
The attention Cross likes to give military members is complemented by his hands-on, personality-driven management style. He is undoubtedly a people person, preferring to talk, handshake, hold babies and directly influence. The general routinely stops people in the hallways for a chat, asks a Soldier about his Family and career plans or pops up in a place of duty unannounced.
“I spend about two hours a day out visiting,” he said. “It’s easy for me to get in my vehicle and just stop. I don’t make an appointment to see anybody, I just show up. I don’t need any fanfare or people waiting outside for me. If they’re in a meeting, they stay in the meeting, and I go see someone else, ask them how they’re doing and how I can help.”
In the bigger picture, Cross wants to make sure that the Quartermaster Corps stays relevant to the Army of the 21st century.
“That entails ensuring that we have quality training for our Soldiers; that we maintain current doctrine as a proponent organization; and that we make sure we take care of the Family,” he said.
When he isn’t performing his official duties, Cross likes spending time with his Family, hunting, following the Dallas Cowboys and playing the saxophone.
On Thanksgiving Day, he jammed with the 392nd Army Band and entertained troops at post dining facilities. He picked up the instrument in 1990 when a younger brother dared him to play better.
“He can’t touch me now,” laughed Cross.
On a more serious note, Cross aims to touch as many lives as he can as Quartermaster Center and School commanding general.
Seems it’s meant to be.
“I’m just happy to be here and happy I was selected as the 50th quartermaster general. I know the Corps will do great things as the Army and Corps transforms and I just want to be a part of that.”