Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Maj. Perry Jarmon served two tours in Iraq. He talked about his service while he and his family visited his parents in Decatur.
Ex-Austin tackle handled media in Iraq
At 6 feet 41/2 inches tall and 280 pounds, few places were large enough to hide Maj. Perry Jarmon during two tours of Iraq, even if he had wanted to hide.
As a public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Reserve, he was in the thick of action, as he was as a star defensive tackle on Austin High School’s 1983 football team that won 13 games.
Jarmon, of Kennesaw, Ga., earned a scholarship to the University of North Alabama, where he graduated in 1989 with a major in radio, television and film, and a minor in public relations and journalism. He also was in the university’s ROTC program. The Army commissioned him a second lieutenant the same year.
Defense was his game, but American forces were on the offensive during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. When the war started, Jarmon, 41, was en route to Kuwait with a 20-man public affairs office team with the 3rd Army Corps Support Command.
Jarmon spoke of his service while he and his family visited his parents in Decatur.
His group arrived in Iraq that May and 10 officers supported the 5th Army Corps. Jarmon was officer in charge with the task of providing accurate information to the media quickly.
He moved to Baghdad’s Green Zone in June 2003, after President Bush declared the end of major hostilities. Public affairs monitored the battlefield of Iraq, handling all press releases, news stories and requests for interviews.
The media interest was intense, he said, and it was a historic time with the embeds (press) being there.
Jarmon was on duty when American-led coalition forces killed Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, on July 22, 2003.
When members of the 4th Infantry Division captured Saddam Hussein that Dec. 13, Jarmon was the only officer on duty in public affairs in the joint operation center. He awakened Col. William Darley, the V Corps public affairs officer, who took command. Jarmon helped prepare statements and responses to queries.
He first thought that distributing releases of American soldiers’ deaths would be a rarity, because of memories of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when there weren’t many casualties, and his 1998 peacekeeping tour of Bosnia.
“We weren’t used to dying and it was not in our mindset,” he said.
“We’re still fighting, 90 casualties a month for six to seven months straight. Whatever the ideology that causes them to fight, it is bigger than Saddam.”
On his second tour that ended in June, Jarmon was at Balad at Camp Anaconda, handling the base camp newspaper and newsreels.
The Army temporarily reassigned him to Ramadi. He returned to Balad and his replacement at Ramadi, Marine Maj. Megan McClung, 34, died in an attack Dec. 6, 2006, while escorting media.
She was the highest-ranking female service member to die in Iraq.
Jarmon said the military helped launch the Iraqi government, and that ending the war will be a political process. He said the fight is not the Army’s war per se, but the American public’s war, too. An informed person who thinks we should be at war, he said, should inform his congressman.
“If you think we shouldn’t, call and write letters to that effect, too,” he said. “As a soldier, I go where I’m sent and do what I’m told.”
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