By Brian Livingston
DEKALB — Sitting at his desk Wednesday afternoon, DeKalb Police Chief Steven Jackson ponders a question concerning whether he has just jumped from the frying pan and into the fire.
Jackson is set to be deployed to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard as a member of the 114th Army Liaison Team, 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. He agrees the timing of this deployment, so soon after the killing of Osama bin Laden, might make things a bit more dicey.
"It's going to be an extremely dangerous mission because I suspect the insurgency will be stirred up like a hornet's nest after bin Laden got taken out," Jackson says. "But I'm going over there to do a mission and the group who are with me are a fantastic bunch. So, yeah, there is a higher measure of difficulty but not so much that we can't handle it."
In the interim, Jackson has tapped Maj. Charles Barrett to fill his spot as the police chief. Jackson said Barrett is the most capable man to lead the department in his absence and that he has the utmost confidence Barrett will continue to give the residents of DeKalb, in Kemper County, and those passing through the area, the kind of service and safety he has tried to employ since he became chief in 2008.
"He is a highly respected officer and I don't see any drop off in the operation of the department," Jackson says.
When asked about taking on the chief's duties, Barrett said he will do the best job he can.
"We hate to lose the chief for so long but we understand he has been called to serve his country," Barrett says.
This deployment is just one of many for Jackson. He said it is different this time because of the heightened coverage of bin Laden's death. Jackson says his family is a little bit more nervous for him because there is so much uncertainty.
But at the same time, Jackson wants to get "in-country" at a time when American morale and the military is riding high from finally getting the number one terrorist in the world. He says his unit, which will act as the middle man between Army forces and the security forces of Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be a part of a surge of momentum to finally douse the insurgency in the region.
"The American military right now is riding a wave of unparalleled success and it is exciting to me to be a part of it," Jackson says. "But this particular mission has my undivided attention because of the overall circumstances that have transpired in the last few days."
Jackson, who carries the rank of captain in the unit, will first go to Camp Shelby south of Hattiesburg before leaving in a couple of weeks for Afghanistan. His deployment is expected to last about 13 months.