36th SB Soldier reflects on three tours in Iraq

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Tad Browning
36th Sustainment Brigade public affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq — Soldiers gain an incredible amount of experience throughout the course of a deployment to Iraq. Some Soldiers, like Staff Sgt. Charles Jackson, here for the beginning, middle and the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, have gained more than others.

Jackson, an intelligence analyst with the 36th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Kyle, Texas, native, reflected on the many changes he has noticed during his three tours in Iraq.

Jackson said this deployment was much like his other two deployments, serving as an intelligence analyst to take bits of intelligence from different sources to create a big picture of what is happening in Iraq.

The situation in Iraq has changed during his deployments, and the number of daily attacks in Iraq has dropped considerably, he said.

“The bad guys are a lot more organized now than they were during OIF I, (but) not necessarily as strong as they were during my second deployment,” Jackson said. “That was kind of the height of the insurgency. They have better structure. The ones that are fighting us now are the ones that are going to fight until the end. There are a lot (of insurgents), that somewhere along the way, lost interest. The ones that are still fighting after seven years are trying to see it through.”

The sectarian violence really spiked during his second deployment, but some of it is still happening, to a less severe extent, he said.

“The average Iraqi is just ready for it all to be over,” Jackson said. “(They are) ready for us to go and ready for a stable country. The society seems to be a little more (empowered), a little more confident now that they're headed in the right direction.”

Jackson said during his initial deployment to Iraq his most enduring moment was the convoy from Kuwait to Tikrit which took almost three days.

“It was a surreal experience,” he said. “Here I am in a foreign country, in a combat zone, and we're driving up the highway seeing burned out vehicles and buses with bullet holes in the sides and windows,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that one of his most humbling moments also happened during his first tour when he convoyed into the Kurdish controlled area of Iraq with one of the female officers in his unit.

“At one of our stops, the kids gathered around us and I had a female captain that I worked with, and I remember one of the little Iraqi girls looking at her and she had this look of amazement,” Jackson said. “Here is this woman standing here in uniform, and it really hit me that they don't necessarily see a lot of opportunity over here, and here is this little girl looking at a female captain in the Army and I don't know if she is thinking, 'Maybe I could do that one day,' or ‘maybe I can do what I want one day.’ The look on her face; that she was just amazed to see a female authority figure like that. I was kind of shocked and humbled and it gave me hope for their future.”

The overall quality of life for Soldiers here has gotten a lot better, he said.

“The side effect of that is that you feel more like you are on a base back home, and some people don't get that we are still in a somewhat hostile environment,” Jackson said. “It could change quickly.”

Lt. Col. Craig Schneider, intelligence officer-in-charge with the 36th Sust. Bde. and an El Paso, Texas, native, said Jackson brings an amazing amount of knowledge and experience to the brigade.

“Jackson brought with him skills with the Command Post of the Future system and working with databases so he was able to just flow us into that...he has worked in (intelligence plans positions) as well as the administrative side of security so he has a lot of breadth in the job,” Schneider said.

Schneider gave the impression that Jackson has made an impact on the mission of the 36th Sust. Bde. through his knowledge and ability to deal with different situations as they arise.

“We didn't have a lot of conflict or indirect fire or scary situations like that, but (if) we had those things, Jackson is the one that I would want to be there,” Schneider said. “He is just even-keeled. He calmly assesses things and he does what he has to do. This has been a much calmer mission for him, fewer mortar rounds, fewer RPGs, so I think he has enjoyed that. When things are very stressful, he is the kind of guy that you like to have around.”