OTF Soldier Story for August 16, 2010 - Maj. Mark Thompson
Current Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Support Activity
Current Position: Company Commander
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Fort Dix, N.J.
Hometown: Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Years of Service: 15
Both in theater and in garrison, Officers are called upon to make decisions that have a lasting impact on military operations around the world, as well as affect the Soldiers who are tasked with executing those missions. As the commander of a key detainee facility near Baghdad, Iraq, Maj. Mark Thompson’s leadership affected not only the Soldiers he commanded, but hundreds of local Iraqis and their families.
During his deployment last year with the 11th Military Police Brigade, Thompson was selected to serve as commander of a high-value detainee and criminal facility outside Baghdad. Nicknamed “Task Force Justice,” the center held many former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime as well as hundreds of other prisoners who threatened U.S troop and Iraqi security.
As commander, Thompson oversaw all operations of the battalion-sized element to ensure the safekeeping of the facility and maintain the humane care and custody of the detainees.
“I knew that whatever happened at that facility would be the result of good or bad leadership, so I made sure I always knew what was going on, day and night. I was constantly engaged and constantly learning about ways to improve our operations,” he said.
Thompson was also charged with briefing the families of the prison’s detainees on the status of their relatives. Intent on fostering a positive perception of the American forces in Iraq, Thompson strived to make communication open and direct.
“The families asked some very hard questions, but I always tried to answer them. In the end, it was worth it because they came to understand what we were doing,” he said. “It was my chance to show them the American spirit and what the American Soldier is all about. You’re representing something bigger than yourself over there; you’re representing America.”
Outside of the facility, Thompson had opportunities to interact with local Iraqi children at the playground U.S. Soldiers had built nearby.
“Playing with the Iraqi kids was one of the highlights of my deployment,” Thompson said, adding that it reminded him of his own son back at home.
During his year-long deployment, Thompson’s wife, Petrina, and son, Kristopher (12), lived with her extended family in Detroit, Mich.
“I’m the kind of guy who likes to take care of things, so knowing that they were surrounded by family really put my mind at ease during the deployment,” said Thompson.”
The Bronze Star Medal recipient now serves at Fort Dix, N.J., as the company commander for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Support Activity, and lives with his family in the area.
Planning to serve for years to come, Thompson is confident that the Army has prepared him for whatever lies ahead, both in or out of uniform.
“Nothing can compare to how it feels to lead our Soldiers and civilians, and to watch them excel based off your guidance, leadership and tutoring,” he said. “When you gain the strength to lead Soldiers, you gain the strength to lead in life. The Army has truly made me a better person.”