Illinois Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson of Frankfort, Illinois, has been selected as the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for First Army and will be promoted to Major General.
“As First Army’s Deputy Commander, Mark Jackson will greatly influence how National Guard and Reserve Soldiers are trained for deployment,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the Adjutant General of Illinois and Commander of the Illinois National Guard. “He is a strategic leader and combat veteran who truly cares for those who serve under him. I cannot think of a better officer to help prepare Soldiers for combat.”
As deputy commander, Jackson will serve directly under First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas S. James. Jackson’s new position and promotion means that after 37 years he will no longer drill with the Illinois National Guard where he was the Director of the Joint Staff since March 2020 and, since July 2020, dual-hatted as the Deputy Commanding General at U.S. Army Southern European Task Force – Africa.
“I’m a little sad about leaving and not having drill and interacting with the people over drill weekends,” Jackson said. However, as much as he will miss seeing those in the Illinois National Guard, he’s grateful for the opportunity with First Army. “It is truly humbling to be selected for major general and to serve with First Army. To go from being a private who never intended to go past my first enlistment to major general is a true blessing. I’m thankful to all my mentors and mostly to the Soldiers and Airmen, because it was really them who got me here.”
While Jackson will miss many Illinois National Guard troops, he will be greeted with a familiar face when he reports to First Army. Sgt. Maj. Philip Barber was a noncommissioned officer on all of the general’s previous deployments and will be Jackson’s senior enlisted leader at First Army. “I know I’m getting a professional, quality, officer,” Barber said. “He practices what is called connected leadership. He will talk to a (private first class) on the range and ask him questions because he truly wants to hear his answers – and he’ll value those opinions.”
Jackson and Barber first deployed together to Kuwait from August 2000 to February 2001 when then Major Jackson was the Security Force Commander with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment for Operation Desert Spring. Barber was a staff sergeant. They deployed together again when Jackson was the Force Protection Liaison Officer under Task Force Santa Fe in Germany from January 2002 to August 2002. Both deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2005 until May 2006, where Lt. Col. Jackson served as the Task Force Blackhawk Commander with the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, and Barber was one of his senior NCOs.
Jackson will replace Maj. Gen. Troy Galloway at First Army. Galloway accepted the Deputy Commander position with U.S. Forces Command. “General Galloway called me into his office and said this officer is being strongly considered to be his backfill. He said ‘Do you know this guy?’ Yes, I’ve known him for 20 years and I was thrilled. I’ve seen him operate since he was a major in 2000 and now he’ll be promoted to major general. He is a talented guy,” Barber said.
Jackson is known for his sense of humor, and he uses it as a leadership tool. “There are enough stuffy people. We’re all volunteers. I want people to know me - to feel comfortable coming in and giving me straight answers. I’m fallible, just like everyone else,” he said. “We all have a boss, but I believe I truly serve the men and women in uniform below me. My job is to get them the training, the tools and the resources and then to let them do their jobs.”
Jackson enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in June 1984. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in May 1987 after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Illinois State University. He has served in every leadership position from platoon leader to brigade commander. He served as the Commander of the 65th Troop Command from January 2009 until November 2012 and then as Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team from November 2012 until October 2014. He was selected to serve as the Assistant Adjutant General – Army in March 2017 after serving as the Joint Plans and Operations Officer for the Illinois National Guard. General Jackson has supported military operations in Poland, Ecuador, Kuwait, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.
General Jackson holds an associate’s degree in Business Administration from Parkland College, a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Illinois State University, a master’s degree of Business Administration from Governor’s State University and a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
General Jackson’s military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters) among many others. He was named to the Army ROTC National Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2013 he was the recipient of the Draper Armor Leadership Award from The Maneuver Center for Excellence. In 2010 he was named to the Illinois State University College of Applied Science and Technology Hall of Fame. He is a two-time recipient of the Outstanding Guardsman of the Year Award (1998 and 1995).
Jackson retired as an Illinois State Police Trooper in June 2015 after 25 years of service. In 1998 he received the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor and the Illinois State Police Department Award for Honor.
He is married to Deanna Jackson and has a son, Tyler.