Jackson County Attorney to be deployed30-year Army Reservist headed to Iraq
JACKSON — Only once during his 30-year career in the Army Reserves has Robert O’Connor been deployed to an area outside the United States. That is about to change.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — Only once during his 30-year career in the Army Reserves has Robert O’Connor been deployed to an area outside the United States.
That is about to change.
The Jackson County Attorney received mobilization orders that will take him to Iraq within a few months for what will be his longest deployment. His scheduled June 1 retirement has been pushed back indefinitely.
O’Connor, who has risen to the ranks of colonel in the Army Reserves, now works as a civil affairs officer. He will leave Jackson later this month for two months of training at Fort Dix, N.J., before his 12-month overseas deployment. While he was told he will be going to Iraq, that may change with the new administration’s plans to reduce troop levels in Iraq and concentrate more on the war in Afghanistan.
“A big part of the mission, too, … will be planning exit strategies, I’m thinking,” said O’Connor on Friday. “We’ll have to see what they want us to do.”
O’Connor will work as an operations manager, planning military civil affairs. His work will be to help reestablish governments, including court systems, laws, religious locations and a host of other governmental entities.
“(It will include) the whole gamut of making a government run — it’s kind of what I do now,” he said.
The deployment is the third of O’Connor’s military career. In 1995 he was sent to Haiti by then-President Bill Clinton, and in 2003, he spent five months at Fort Jackson, S.C., but was never deployed overseas.
O’Connor will report to Fort Dix, N.J., on Jan. 28, where he will join up with other soldiers in his unit. During the two-month training process, they will be retrained on use of weapons and gas masks, and then begin working on the group tasks they will perform in theater.
“I don’t envision myself being a do’er over there — I’m a planner,” O’Connor said.
Military service runs in the O’Connor family. He grew up outside Washington, D.C., the son of an Army man. In addition, his daughter, Darcy Quinn, is a second lieutenant in the Air Force, and now attends school in San Angelo, Texas.
As for O’Connor, he graduated from high school in Silver Spring, Md., and then travelled throughout the country as an Army Reservist.
“The Army got me to Minnesota,” he said. “I’ve been in every one of the states.”
When he was assigned to active duty at Fort Snelling in 1987, O’Connor decided Minnesota was where he wanted to stay. He worked at Fort Snelling five days a week and attended law school in the evenings, graduating in 1991. He accepted a position as assistant county attorney in Jackson County in 1997, and was then elected Jackson County Attorney in 2002.
Assistant Jackson County Attorney Sherry Haley will fill in for O’Connor while he’s away, and the county has opted to hire another assistant attorney on a contract basis to help with the workload.
“On the financial side it will be a gain for the county, which will probably be a good thing with the economy the way it is,” O’Connor said.
Walking away from his duties as a county attorney for up to 18 months will not be an easy thing to do.
“I think it will be an interesting challenge,” O’Connor said. “This will be a culmination of 30 years of training to … execute and do what I’ve been planning for.
“Most soldiers will say they want to do the mission — they want to do what they’ve been training for, but it’s kind of disruptive for the family life,” he added.