Jackson’s first training was a two-week stint at APG school at NAS Dallas. It took her three years of training before she qualified as an intelligence specialist.
“Joining the military is like learning a different language,” she said. “I often felt as if there was a tape running in my head, always a little behind in conversation because I had to think through what the acronyms meant.”
During Jackson’s second year in the Navy, she was sent to training in San Diego, Calif., as an enlisted intelligence assistant, where she saw her first ship.
“I had grown up in Oklahoma, about as far away from an ocean and ships as you can get,” she said. “The EIA course was one of the hardest I ever took.”
In 1985, Jackson embarked on her first voyage out of the country, getting two weeks of duty in Munich, Germany.
“I know it must be true that God watches over fools and children, because he certainly watched over me,” she said. “It was quite an adventure, but I loved every minute of it and managed to go back to Germany three more times during my Navy career.”
That career also took her to Korea twice.
During the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operation, Jackson’s unit was activated, and she spent close to eight months on active duty in Hawaii.
Being a little older than some of her fellow Navy people, Jackson said it was a challenge rooming with teenagers.
“My service pales in comparison to other veterans, but living in a barracks with about 350 teenagers was not easy for an older person,” she said. “The teenagers played their boom boxes so loud it would nearly bounce you out of bed.”
At one point, Jackson received a “care package” from her husband containing soothing Hawaiian music on tape.
“I set the tape player at the head of my bed and played those tapes to drown out the other noise and lull me to sleep. To this day, I still get sleepy when I hear Hawaiian music.”