Mr. Jackson: Chemical Weapons Destroyer, Shark Fighter

Mr. Jackson: Chemical Weapons Destroyer, Shark Fighter

Ella Reynolds, Reporter

Prior to teaching, one of DHS’s many loved teachers, Eric Jackson, worked alongside the military with the first chemical plant to dispose and destroy chemical weapons, while experiencing many other eventful times.

Mr. Jackson is a great educator (teaching Anatomy and Physiology, as well as the AVID program), but he also had a one-of-a-kind job before becoming the fantastic teacher he is.

“My mother was a nurse on Johnston Island, and my work was slowing down, so my mother called, and I got the job, and that’s pretty much how it happened,” said Jackson.

Jackson and multiple other troops worked for Project JACADS (Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System) from 1992 to about 2004. There were chemical weapons that were stock piled for the military; the casing for these weapons was deteriorating slowly, so the chemicals were beginning to leak.

Congress passed a law that wherever these weapons were stocked, they must be disposed of. It was determined to build the prototype plant on the small, remoste Johnston Island.

It was a half mile wide and two miles long. The prevailing winds ensured that if chemicals leaked, they would go into the ocean, away from populations.  A total of about 1,500 people on the slightly larger than one square mile island at that time. It was hot, humid and isolated.

“Our rooms didn’t have air conditioning, or phones, and we had communal bathrooms. It was rough, but payed for. Aside from that, the free dining hall made excellent food,” said Jackson.

Planes would come in twice a week, to deliver supplies and passengers. A barge also came in once a month to supply canned goods and other supplies.

One dramatic event that occurred on the island included a shark attack.

“There was a guy who got bit by a shark, and I was involved in the rescue of it all,” explained Jackson.

The island itself was a unique experience for him, and the men took part in many other engagements, such as spending time in the ocean for part of their off-time.

“I got the opportunity to scuba dive, and got my scuba diving license, so that was fun,” said Jackson.

“It was hot and humid, and rained quite often, and I didn’t really like that. And we didn’t have family around so sometimes we got homesick,” said Jackson.

Sanctioned by the military, the job had strict regulations.

“We weren’t allowed to have pets, and we weren’t too social with the outside world. But I met my wife there, and the rate for men to women was eight to one, so I feel really lucky. We worked sixty hours a week, Monday through Saturday, so we made good money. If you threw a punch or stepped on the runway without permission, you were out. You had to carry a gas mask everywhere, and if you were going to the plant you had to have an armed guard with you,” said Jackson.

The island had an outdoor theatre, olympic size swimming pool and many other activities to keep its population entertained. Finally, after twelve years, project JACADS was finished.

”I was on the final plane out. Everything on the island was destroyed. All that’s left is the runway,” explained Jackson.

“I would go back within a heartbeat. I loved working there. When we left, I was offered another job with the company, but I wanted to go back to more socialization, and I wanted to teach. I want to be a good teacher, and I want to be the teacher I wished I had when I was younger. I want to give kids a good education,” said Jackson with a full heart.

To hear Mr. Jackson retell his shark attack story, check out our El Diablo Youtube Account and Facebook page!