Army Command Sgt. Maj. James R. Jordan has much in common with his younger brother, retired basketball star Michael Jordan. He loves his job, believes in helping his team and expects maximum effort from those around him.
And like his brother, James Jordan likes to leave on his own terms. He has asked to stay in the Army for a year beyond his mandatory retirement date so he can complete a full yearlong deployment to Iraq with about 500 other members of the 35th Signal Brigade.
"We are currently at war," Jordan said before the unit started shipping out Sunday. "We are doing things, and it requires leaders to do certain things. That's what I am, a leader."
Under normal conditions, the 47-year-old Jordan would wind down his Army career in the spring as he approached the 30-year mark, but he has no intention of getting on an airplane April 29 and coming home.
"That's not the way you want to end a 30-year career," Jordan told The Fayetteville Observer.
"People ask 'Why?"' said Col. Bryan Ellis, the brigade commander. "The answer is, he is completely selfless. We all want to see it go well."
Jordan is a no-nonsense noncommissioned officer with a shaved head and a wry sense of humor. He stands 5-foot-7, while his younger brother is about 6-foot-6. As the senior enlisted soldier in the brigade of 2,450 soldiers, he has kept a low profile at Fort Bragg and avoided calling attention to his family connection.
"If you don't believe in selfless service, you are not going to make it in this business," said Jordan, the oldest person in the brigade.
He was 36, wearing the stripes of a first sergeant, when he went to airborne school, where most soldiers are in their teens or early 20s. He still runs eight miles and expects soldiers to be alongside him.
Three years of Junior ROTC during high school in Wilmington helped convince Jordan that the Army was for him.
"I figured I wanted to be a soldier, plus I was the oldest of five kids," he said. "I wanted to get out of the house and do something myself."
He said some of his relatives don't really know what he does.
"They know I'm in the Army. That's about it," he said. "My immediate family and my wife, my kids, not extremely happy, but they are on the team. They say: 'Daddy, do what you've got to do."'
"I've been doing this by myself for so long, being my own person, being my own soldier," he said. "I'm going to continue doing it the same way until the day I feel like I need to hang it up, not when they feel like I need to hang it up."