LtCol Hays attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through an NROTC scholarship, attending Officer Candidate School in 1999, and receiving his commission in May 2000. After completing The Basic School in January 2001, LtCol Hays attended the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Upon graduating from Fort Sill, he reported to Battery G, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines. During this assignment, LtCol Hays served as Forward Observer, Fire Direction Officer, and Battery Executive Officer. Following the events of September 11th, 2001, Battery G participated in OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE as part of I MEF’s homeland defense quick reaction force. From July 2002 to June 2003, LtCol Hays deployed with Battery G to Okinawa, Japan and attached to BLT 2/4, 31st MEU(SOC).
In January 2004, LtCol Hays reported to 1st ANGLICO. During this assignment LtCol Hays served as Firepower Control Team (FCT) Leader, 15th MEU ANGLICO detachment OIC, and Supporting Arms Liaison Team (SALT) OIC. During this LtCol Hays also attended the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) course at EWTGPAC, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training course in Warner Springs, CA, and the USAF AC-130 course at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
From July 2005 to March 2006, LtCol Hays deployed with 1st ANGLICO to Al Anbar, Iraq in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). During this deployment he participated in combat operations with 3d Battalion, 6th Marines in Al Qaim, and later as Air Officer for 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, USA, in Rawah. LtCol Hays deployed a second time with 1st ANGLICO as the OIC for SALT Alpha in support of OIF from August 2006 to March 2007. During this period LtCol Hays performed the duties as both the Air Officer and Fire Support Coordinator for 3d Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division in Habbanyiah.
Following his tour with 1st ANGLICO, LtCol Hays attended Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia and later received follow on orders to 1st Battalion, 11th Marines at Camp Pendleton, CA, serving temporarily at the Assistant Operations Officer. In July 2008, LtCol Hays assumed command of Battery G, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines. Following Battery Command, LtCol Hays served as the Operations Officer for 2d Battalion, 11th Marines from April 2009 until April 2010.
In April 2010, LtCol Hays was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment. Serving as both Fire Support Coordinator and CIED Coordinator for Regimental Combat Team One (RCT-1), LtCol Hays deployed to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) from October 2010 to May 2011.
Following deployment, LtCol Hays attended the USMC Command and Staff College in Quantico, graduating in June 2012 and earning a Master’s Degree in Military Studies. While at Command and Staff College, LtCol Hays was selected for command of Recruiting Station Montgomery Alabama and served as the Commanding Officer from June 2012 to June 2015. In July 2015, LtCol Hays reported to 11th Marine Regiment and served as the Executive Officer for 1st Battalion, 11th Marines. In March 2016, LtCol Hays assumed command of 1st Battalion, 11th Marines and relinquished command in June 2016.
In July 2016, LtCol Hays was assigned to Task Force Al Asad. Serving as both the Task Force Operations Officer and Maneuver Advisor, LtCol Hays deployed to Iraq in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE (OIR) from December 2016 to June 2017. During the deployment, LtCol Hays supported combat operations for the Jazeera Operational Command (JOC) and the 7th Iraqi Army Division.
His personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star and combat distinguishing device, and the Combat Action Ribbon. LtCol Hays is a member of the Honorary Order of Saint Barbara, and the Order of the Golden Spur.