service to country
Northsider returns home from iraq as part of his travels around the world with National Guard
After spending three months in Iraq, Dr. Scott Carlton was eager to get home, spend time with his family, catch up with friends, get back to work and have a good slice of bacon.
Carlton returned recently from a three-month deployment to Iraq, where he served as a liaison for Army Medical Assets, helping train Iraqi soldiers in “Combat Life-Saving” classes.
The Northsider said the trip was edifying, in that he served with soldiers from across the globe and he gained a better appreciation of the Iraqi culture.
He also learned that beef bacon is no substitute for the real thing.
“The Iraqis aren’t big on bacon. You could get it a couple days a week, and it was uninspired,” he said. “They did have beef bacon. Those are two words that should never be put together.”
Carlton, a colonel with the Mississippi Army National Guard, is a physician with MEA Medical Clinic’s North Jackson branch on Old Canton Road.
He joined the Mississippi Army National Guard in 1979, at 17, and served as a member of the 20th Special Forces Group, more commonly known as the Green Berets.
“I went through as a medic. That’s how I got interested in medical school,” he said.
Carlton left the guard to go to medical school in 1986, on an army scholarship. After graduating from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, he went on active duty in the Army Medical Corps. He previously received his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University.
“About that time, I met and married my wife, Virginia. She had just graduated law school and because she wanted to get married to me, but still practice law, she joined the army also, as a JAG officer.” JAG, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, is the legal corps.
The service took the couple all over the world. “We were stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga. We were transferred to Germany, where we stayed for three years, and then transferred to Hawaii, where we stayed for two,” Carlton said.
“While I was in Hawaii, I finished up my family practice residency.”
After two years at Louisiana’s Ft. Polk, the couple decided to come back home. “We decided we wanted to raise babies in Mississippi. We both left active duty and moved home.”
Scott and Virginia left the army in 1999. At the time, joining the guard or becoming a reservist wasn’t on Carlton’s radar.
“I was not interested in doing weekend drills or being called up for deployments. I wanted to practice small-town medicine in Columbia,” he said. “My wife stayed in the reserves. She retired three years ago as a colonel.”
Virginia was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2004. The Columbia native served House District 100, until she was elected to the state Court of Appeals in 2007.
In 2010, the couple moved to Jackson.
“When I met my wife and she decided to hitch her wagon to my horse, she took a big leap of faith and traveled the world with me,” Carlton said. “I felt it was my turn to exhibit faith in her. She got elected to the House of Representatives. She subsequently ran for the court of appeals, which is a full-time job on High Street in Jackson, so I decided it was time for me to follow her.
“We have followed each other’s career around.”
It was around that time that Carlton decided it was time to get back into the service.
“I ran into one of my old Special Forces buddies. He was still in the guard. I was impressed that, even though he was a little older than me, he was in the guard,” he said. “I thought, ‘dang, I could be in the guard, too.’
The timing was right. “Our kids were older. We weren’t carrying around diaper bags. I thought it was OK to think about being gone one weekend a month,” he said. “I talked to the wife and she said, ‘yeah, you can get back in.’”
Carlton was assigned to the Army Medical Corps and was commissioned as a major.
Since then, he’s been deployed twice, to Kosovo in 2012, and to Iraq in 2018-19. He left for Iraq on November 30, 2018 and returned home on March 15.
While in Iraq, Carlton was stationed at Camp Taji, a coalition base about 19 miles north of Baghdad.
Twenty-two countries were represented there, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Germany, Singapore and Canada.
Duties included sitting in on training classes for Iraqi soldiers learning combat medical training, as well as coordinating training and support with Iraqi forces officers.
He was not worried about his safety, even though he took precautions when interacting with the Iraqis.
“Camp Taji is in a war zone, but I’m not a combat soldier. I was not going out, kicking in doors and clearing road routes,” he said. “I was just doing medical.
“While I was there, Iraq was a quiet, safe place.”
Soldiers resided in the part of the base known as the “green zone,” which required extreme vetting to get in. Training was conducted outside of that area.
Work days began around 8 a.m. and wrapped up around two in afternoon. The work week ran Sunday through Friday.
Personnel could only leave the base via helicopter or Air Force C-130 transport aircraft.
“You’re behind the wall the whole time. You don’t leave and go shopping at the bazaar or take in a local movie or go to the Iraqi museum,” he said. “If you left, it was in coordination with the Army or Air Force.”
Carlton called home daily.
“I used my own cell phone. When I got there, I paid for Internet service. I used wi-fi to search the web,” he said. “The bandwidth was restricted, so it made movies run slow. All the young guys were playing PUB-G.”
PUBG is Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, an online shooter game.
Aside from slower bandwidth, Carlton missed his family and friends, as well as some of his favorite foods.
“There was no Hinds 57 Sauce,” he said. “I got my wife to send me some.”