General Sir Michael David "Mike" Jackson, GCB, CBE, DSO, DL (born 21 March 1944) is a retired British Army officer and one of its most high-profile generals since the Second World War. Originally commissioned into the Intelligence Corps in 1963, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment in 1970, with which he served two of his three tours of duty in Northern Ireland. On his first, he was present as an adjutant at the events of Bloody Sunday (1972), when soldiers opened fire on protesters, killing 13 people. On his second, he was a company commander in the aftermath of the Warrenpoint ambush (1979), the British Army's heaviest single loss of life during the Troubles. He was assigned to a staff post at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 1982 before assuming command of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, in 1984. Jackson was posted to Northern Ireland for the third time, as a brigade commander, in the early 1990s.
In 1994, Jackson served his first tour in the Balkans, where he commanded a multi-national division of the Implementation Force. Following a staff job back in the UK, he was appointed commander of NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) in 1997. He returned to the Balkans with the ARRC during the Kosovo War, during which he famously refused to obey an order from American General Wesley Clark, his immediate superior in the NATO chain of command, to block the runways of Pristina Airport and isolate the Russian contingent that was positioned there. He reportedly told Clark, "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you". The incident attracted controversy, particularly in the United States, and earned Jackson the nickname "Macho Jacko" in the British tabloid press. Jackson established a working relationship with the Russian general commanding the detachment at Pristina, giving him a bottle of whisky, of which Jackson is known to be fond, and providing the Russians with the protection of a squad of British soldiers, commanded by his son, Mark.
Upon his return to the UK, Jackson was promoted to full general and appointed Commander-in-Chief, Land Command, the second-most senior position in the British Army. After three years as Commander-in-Chief, Jackson was appointed Chief of the General Staff (CGS), the professional head of the British Army, in 2003. He took up the post a month before the start of the Iraq War, amid disputes over the legality of the invasion and claims that the Army was under-equipped. However, he dismissed suggestions that the Army was at "breaking point". The most controversial point of his tenure as CGS was the restructuring of the regiment system and amalgamation of many regiments into larger ones, leading to the loss of historic regiment names. He was succeeded as CGS by General Sir Richard Dannatt in 2006, and retired from the Army after serving for almost 45 years.
Jackson continues to speak on military matters and works as a consultant and guest lecturer, and has published an autobiography. He has three children, from two marriages, and four grandchildren.
By Dean Hanley
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