Throughout May, we are celebrating Military Appreciation Month and the role the military has played in our country. This week we hear from former Navy submariner Brian Jackson, Project Manager at our Birmingham office, about his time in the Armed Forces.
When and why did you join the military?
I enlisted in the US Navy in 1981. In my formative years, my father was in the Air Force, so we lived on bases all over the world. Even back then, everyone knew I wanted a military career. After my parents split up when I was in high school, times were tough. We were poor in wealth, but rich in faith. I looked at a military career to break the cycle of poverty in my family. I prayed for signs, and my prayers were answered. The Navy offered everything I was looking for, with high-tech training, motivated peers and leaders and clear paths for success. All I had to do was serve with honor, courage and commitment, so I jumped at the opportunity. Serving became something special that my family and future wife would be very proud of.
What is your role in the military?
A submariner for 26 years, I served in diverse roles at sea, in the air and on the ground as both an enlisted sailor and an officer. During the first half of my military career, I was an enlisted Nuclear Machinist Mate, earning promotions from Seaman Recruit through Senior Chief Petty Officer. I led sailors operating and maintaining mechanical systems on nuclear submarines and surface warships. As an instructor, I trained officers and enlisted sailors on theory and operation of nuclear propulsion plants. I attended many service schools to broaden my versatility.
In the last half of my career I was what the Navy calls a Mustang. I earned a commission as a Naval Officer, advancing from Ensign to Lieutenant Commander. With diverse leadership experience, I served in roles from ship handling, tactical and strategic weapons employment, and department administration, to more delicate roles involving negotiation, languages and mentoring to sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines.
Have you been deployed recently? What did your deployment involve?
No. My last deployment was in 2004, followed by retirement in 2006. I worked for Commander 5thFleet as the NAVCENT Liaison Naval Officer to Multinational Forces, Iraq (MNFI). Based in Basra, Iraq, I coordinated activities between naval forces in the North Arabian Gulf, and ground operations in southern Iraq. Also, I supervised infrastructure construction projects and oversaw training and reconstruction of a new Iraq Navy. I assisted coalition sea, air and land elements in intelligence and counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.
Is there anything you wish others knew about serving in the military?
Although military service was both rewarding and challenging, the hardest part for many of us was dealing with separation from family and friends. Knowing that you aren’t available to support your loved ones in their times of need can be devastating. That’s why the military works so hard at building strong support systems for the families of service members and to help service men and women cope. We appreciate any additional support for our families from our communities. They’re separated from their loved ones too, and they deserve every kindness.
How has your military service influenced your work at Southern Nuclear?
Military service influences my work greatly. As a former Navy nuke, I have solid fundamentals from experience as both an operator and a leader. I went through nuclear power training twice during my service: first as an enlisted petty officer and later as a naval officer. We operated our nuclear-powered fleets with such high standards for safety and reliability that we could dock at busy ports anywhere in the world. I bring that culture with me in my role at Southern Nuclear.
What does Military Appreciation Month mean to you?
To me, it’s a special opportunity to show appreciation for that small fraction of patriotic Americans who stood, or are still standing, in harm’s way for defense of our country.