A “wanted” photo from Iraq depicts a man wearing an Arab headdress and proclaims that “the subject may appear loud and from Texas.”
The man in the poster, Army reservist Lt. Col. James Masters, was, in fact, from Brownwood, Texas. Some of the men created the “wanted” photo in a humorous moment while Masters was in Iraq, where he commanded a reservist battalion.
Masters, who has resumed his civilian life and works in the Brown County Veterans Service Office, served in Iraq from May 2005 to May 2006.
He was based in Tikrit — Saddam Hussein’s hometown — and he commanded an entity known as the Civil Military Coordination Center, Multi-National Forces North. Masters and his soldiers were tasked with planning reconstruction-related tasks, including rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, to be carried out by Iraqi civilians.
Combat wasn’t the major role of Masters’ unit, but they did see combat and went on armed patrols. Mortar attacks and explosions were “a way of life,” Masters said, and he adopted an Arab saying, “as God wills.”
But Masters said he wasn’t fatalistic. “I’ve always been an eternal optimist,” he said, and being in Iraq reinforced his belief “in the concept of the living God.”
He said he returned as a stronger person, but was “just a minor player” among “the most fantastic group of people” — his fellow soldiers.
Masters, an Abilene native, enlisted in the Army in 1973. He left the Army as a sergeant, then attended McMurry University and earned an Army commission through the ROTC. He then served as an active duty officer with the National Guard.
He retired in late 2003, figuring his military career was over, and joined the National Guard at Camp Bowie. His wife, Olivia Jane, is a retired Army reservist major from Brownwood,
In the summer of 2004, Masters learned that the Army was asking specialty officers who'd been retired for less than five years to consider returning to the service. He was motivated by patriotism and duty to answer that call.
“My country, my Army,” Masters said.
Masters was working in the Veterans Service Office when he donned an Army uniform once again and prepared to deploy.
Within 36 hours of arriving in Iraq, Masters led a combat patrol that included a medical team to a Tikrit hospital for disabled children.
“We’ve got a highly trained, highly disciplined force,” Masters said. “Do bad things happen in war? Yes. But we will prosecute those who violate the rule of law. I have yet to see one of these head-chopping insurgents brought up on trial.
“ … Will we win? Yes. We don’t have to win in a manner that satisfies us here in the United States. We have to be able to stabilize Iraq to where the Iraqi people are confident in their government to maintain their safety.”
Before the U.S. military presence ends in Iraq, Masters said, the Iraqi army needs to be able to “confidently engage anti-Iraq forces and have the integrity to obey the orders of a civilian government.”
“Iraq will never be like the United States,” he said. “We should never expect that. … Iraq’s going to have to make a choice on whether it’s going to be a whole country or not.”
Masters said the insurgents won’t defeat the American military. “If there’s a mindset of loss, I would say it would only be a political defeat.”