Cavalry Sergeant has sights set on NBA
November 5, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq - Of the hundreds of rooms inside the main palace on Forward Operating Base Prosperity, there is one in particular, a room that emits that kind of sound that sounds like muffled club-like music just before you enter.
The sign outside the door reads, "Boom Boom Room." In fact, it's merely a supply room, but it's considered one of the best in the brigade. It's the best because the person who runs it says it's the best, and he says it the loudest.
Staff Sgt. Jessie L. Jackson Jr., the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is that guy who travels with an entourage of Sgts. Antwan Wilmont and Jason Shriner, and Pfc. David Pough, everywhere he goes. Though his 6-foot-5 frame is striking, it stands subordinate to his ability to make heads turn as his voice carries itself throughout whatever room he is in.
"People say, 'Sergeant Jack might be loud, but he'll help us,'" said Jackson. "I look at my blessings. If I give to others, I get it back tenfold."
During his deployment, Jackson has been spending almost every night officiating FOB Prosperity's intramural flag football games, but with all his achievements on and off the field, he's learned that all the guidance and advice he's been given through many of the contacts in his vast network of family, friends and colleagues is starting to pay off.
"When people started looking at me, people said I looked like an NFL official," he said. "1st. Sgt. Patrick made me the head official; he gave me a rule book."
He was asked to help out when 1st Sgt. Kenneth Patrick, Co. E, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, saw him as a basketball referee, and what began is possibly a new career path for Jackson.
Growing up in Shreveport, La., Jackson spent almost his entire life surrounded by basketball. While attending Captain Shreve High School, in Shreveport, he and his team won the Louisiana State High School basketball championship. His talents on the court took him to Louisiana State University-Shreveport, where he played on their basketball team as a small forward. Yet, it wasn't long until he succumbed to life on the streets.
After only a semester at LSU-Shreveport, he quickly found himself in a courtroom rather than a basketball court.
"I was in jail for 30 days waiting on my court date," he recounted. "The judge gave me a choice to join the military or go to prison. So, at 17 years old, my parents went with me to the Marine Corps recruiting station; that's how my military career started."
As a Marine, he was also in the supply world. He spent some of that time playing on the All-Marine Basketball Team, but after eight years, he left as a corporal and decided to transition into the Army.
He arrived at Fort Hood, Texas in 2001 and started as a supply clerk with 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, which was then a 2nd BCT battalion.
"As a young clerk, he had a busy supply room there," said Sgt. 1st Class Kendrick Jones, 4-9 Cav.'s S-4 Logisitics noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "He was just the loud guy in the corner. He wasn't as knowledgeable in supply as he should have been at that time."
When Jones, of Longview, Texas, first came to the squadron, Jackson had just been promoted to sergeant, and he felt that, although Jackson had the potential, he wasn't working to his full capacity. So, he challenged him, just as he did with his other supply clerks. Jackson gives much of the credit to his success to Jones and said the most important thing he learned was how to prioritize.
"When I first arrived to the unit, there was a bunch of supply NCOs who didn't care. I'm not going to lie, I was one of them," admits Jackson. "I have to give credit to my ... 'circle of trust' ... like Sergeant First Class (Kendrick) Jones.'
'He would tell us, if you want to stand up above the rest, here's what you have to do. He would give us sergeant's time [training] and quiz us - make us go back to the regs (regulations)."
Jackson, who refers to Jones as his mentor, calls him the "king" because of his experience and knowledge of not only the supply realm but also the countless life lessons he's passed onto him.
"He taught me everything I know about supply," Jackson said. "He took me from a line unit and sent me to the 'beast:' HHT; it's a beast because of the countless, countless hours."
Jones, who is on his way to retiring, said that today, Jackson is one of their best supply sergeants, and that he sees the mentoring and guidance he's passing onto other supply clerk in the squadron and around the brigade.
"He's one of our top guys - I mean, all my guys are sharp. He's a mentor; a lot go to him for help," Jones said. "He's got a lot of the young Soldiers around him; they are supply sergeants and clerks. They look at him as a mentor - the same thing I did with him, he does with them. I didn't know if he was listening, but now he says, 'hey Sergeant Jones, I remember you saying this ...' He's come a long way, and he recognized that."
Jackson is the first to say that he has in fact come a long way -- not only in the military but more importantly in life.
His fast living days have all been a thing of the past since the birth of his son. He claims that more than anything, he wants to be not only a father-figure in his son's life but a daddy.
"My son was a big reason I turned a 180," he said. "I live for him. Everything I do is for him. I don't want him to experience what I had to."
Through Jackson's life experiences, he has come to the point where he said his goals are not only attainable, but that he's doing everything in his power to reach for them.
Although he is working on his personal goals, he can never really escape his upbringing of wanting to help others.
Growing up with five other siblings taught him to take care of others. His upbringing was received from a former Marine Corps first sergeant in his father. Something he describes as very "strict."
"My father ruled with an iron fist," he said. "He was very strict, but he was very compassionate."
Though, the life lessons preached to his son wouldn't really be practiced until later on in life, Jackson finally adopted his father's sayings as his own philosophy in how he deals with people in his life now.
"When I was growing up, my father had a saying. My father said, 'if you want to gain anything, you have to give,'" he said. "People say, 'why can we rely on you'' I never know when I'll need something."
Jackson spends most of his time giving back to the Soldiers through both his day, as a supply sergeant, and his night job as a referee. Although Jackson has spent most of his time as a flag football referee, he hopes to move up to the NBA as basketball is his first love.
Upon his return to Texas, where he and his 8-year-old son Jessie III call home now, he plans on going to a sporting official seminar in Austin. Since he's already taken his certification test online and received his license to call games, he's a step closer to meeting his goal of taking on high school basketball games, but for now, he's happy just giving his time as the "ref," as he loves to be called, out on a dusty piece of real estate Soldiers play football on.
"I'd like to take it as far as I can go. My goal is trying to get to the NBA," he said. "For now, I change and go out to the games because I know how important sports are to these Soldiers."