Staff sergeant's off-duty mission is Missouri politics
(Editor's note: Staff Sgt. Jason Brown, the subject of this story, has been wounded by sniper fire in Iraq, the Associated Press reported on Friday. See sidebar for more details.)
BAGHDAD — Missouri State Rep. Jason Brown wants your vote.
Staff Sgt. Jason Brown, however, just wants to make it through his year in Baghdad.
The 36-year-old reservist from Platte City, Mo., could be the consummate public servant: During the day, he mans a Humvee gun turret in east Baghdad as a member of the Utica, N.Y.-based 414th Civil Affairs Battalion.
At night, after his soldierly duties are done, he spends up to eight hours on the computer, doing research and answering requests from constituents in his legislative district, which he hopes to hold on to in November’s election.
Brown, a Republican, first took office in 2002, after spending years working in municipal government as a public works director. He was called to active duty last year, during the Missouri legislative session.
This year, he’s running a remote re-election campaign on an anti-tax platform — an interesting choice considering his day job these days is funded by taxpayers (he also receives a publicly funded salary as a state representative, and he owns and runs two private construction companies).
“I think that as a whole, Americans pay too much in taxes and there’s too much waste in government,” he said. “If there’s government waste, fraud and abuse, it needs to be rectified.”
Because of military and practical restrictions, his wife is continuing his campaign at home, conducting fundraising events and making public appearances.
He acknowledged that his double life keeps him very busy. But, he said, he’s found some hidden rewards.
“If there’s one thing I’ve enjoyed about being here, it’s not having a cell phone on me all the time,” he said. “What, am I going to answer the phone when it rings in my gun turret?”
Meanwhile, he said, his BlackBerry mobile device — on which he used to spend up to 4,000 minutes a month back at home — has found a not-so-welcome home with his wife.
“She will be so happy to hand that thing to me,” he said with a laugh. “I have no doubt that’ll be the first thing she’ll give me when I get off the plane.”
He said his experience in Iraq will have a great and positive impact on his work as a legislator.
“I’ll take back an experience that can only be had by being in close contact with other soldiers in a combat zone,” he said.
He said his experience in Iraq has led him to push for greater awareness of veterans’ benefits and has fortified his determination to continue supporting the war.
“I think we’ve begun something here that’s vital to our national security,” he said. “And I think it’s vital we finish it.”
As a civil affairs soldier, he said he’s also gained valuable insight into developing local government in Iraq.
“I think part of the problem here is you’re starting at greater than zero, but far less than 100 percent,” he said. “It isn’t fast. It takes a long time to move people along. It’s going to take years. Look at Bosnia. Look at Kosovo.
“I think there is a lot of good work that’s being done here,” he said. “But you won’t get to see the dividends of your work overnight.”
He laughed when asked if he planned to visit Iraq in the future, as part of a legislative junket.
“If I get out of here after 365 days,” he said, “I’m not coming back unless Uncle Sam orders me back here.”
Missouri state lawmaker wounded while stationed in Iraq
By The Associated Press
PARKVILLE, Mo. — A Missouri state lawmaker stationed in Iraq was shot in the lung by a sniper while on patrol, a family spokesman said Friday.
Rep. Jason Brown, 36, was resting at an Iraqi hospital and waiting to be taken to a military facility for surgery, said George McClintock, a family spokesman and former Veterans of Foreign Wars post commander. He was wounded while serving near Baghdad, McClintock said.
Brown, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, was deployed in March for a one-year tour and has been serving as a civil affairs specialist, helping build roads, bridges, hospitals and schools. In 2000, he served in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Brown, a Platte City Republican, is up for re-election next month. He was first elected in 2002 to represent a state House district just north of Kansas City.