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Local GOP hosts retired general


Farragut resident Dennis K. Jackson found himself in the middle of “logistics nightmares” — with international implications — alongside some of the nation’s most powerful military leaders and decision makers.

Jackson, a retired U.S. Army major general with 34 years military service, served as director of Logistics and Engineering for U.S. Central Command in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Director for Logistics Transformation in the National Security Directorate of Oak Ridge National Laboratories since moving to Farragut in 2004, Jackson shared stories of his interaction with top brass during an address to Concord-Farragut Republican Club Thursday, Nov. 4, in Seasons Café.

Jackson received the nickname “Log Man” from his boss, Gen. Tommy Franks, then commander in chief of U.S. Central Command.


“I couldn’t tell if he was happy with me or whether he was perturbed with me if he would call me ‘Log Man,’” Jackson said.

About his relationship with Franks, Jackson said it was “a love-hate relationship,” but added Franks was “a supporter of mine” who suggested Jackson, a two-star general, receive a third star.

Jackson supervised logistics and engineering operations and planning for all forces engaged in Iraqi/Afghanistan combat, stability and reconstruction operations.

Jackson said Franks “would get cranky with me from time to time. One day he said to me, ‘Log Man, why is it that you are having such a difficult time ... why can’t you get the plane in route for this?’

“Here he is in public, he’s asking me not just in front of other people ... there’s about six or seven coalition generals there,” he added.

“I said, ‘Sir, here’s the problem: I cannot get the conditions set because you have not given me the requirements, and you keep changing the requirements.’

“He said, ‘Enough ... good point, see me later.’

“We spent Thanksgiving Day trying to get a Marine brigade into a base called Reinhold.”

About job security, “The closest I came to getting fired was on the 17th of December [2001],” Jackson said, adding then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “was so angry” with Franks that the general almost got fired.

During Central Command early morning meetings with Rumsfeld and other high-ranking [Pres. George W.] Bush Administration and State Department brass, Jackson recalled Rumsfeld as a “micromanager.”

“That’s a good thing if you’re on the board of Sears corporation; it’s a bad thing if you’re secretary of defense,” Jackson said.

About Afghanistan, “People say, ‘We went at Afghanistan alone;’ no we didn’t, I lived it, I was there,” Jackson said. “There were 70 nations that were involved in the coalition for Afghanistan.”

Saying U.S. Central Command brought in “half-a-dozen historians” to brief command brass about the history of Afghanistan, Jackson said former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was among the six.

“He sat right next to me for about three days,” Jackson said. “We sat and talked about things that we probably needed to know.”

Concerning Alexander the Great’s inability to conquer Afghanistan, Jackson said, “Afghanistan is controlled only if you’re standing there. Once you move away, you no longer control it.”

Jackson recalled “a nightmare that I had to live one night. I got told we had to get 50 Australian saddles into Afghanistan in the next 12 hours.

“The reason was, our Special Operation Forces ... were so sore they could hardly ride anymore because these guys were riding on top of blankets,” he added.

“Afghanistan’s a war we’ve won three times. The history there is not real good. ... I don’t know if there’s a willingness by the Afghans to change.”

Prior to Iraq and Afghanistan, Jackson was commanding general for Ordnance and Missile Programs. Earlier in his military career, Jackson served as a strategic planner for chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

A native of Wyoming who entered the U.S. Army in 1969, Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming and master’s degree at Florida Institute of Technology.

Saying he turned down a job in Washington, D.C., prior to coming to East Tennessee, Jackson added, “I had never been to Knoxville before. ... We found that it’s a great place to be and we enjoy it here.”

 

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