St Albans scientist swaps particle physics for tour of duty in Afghanistan

Lieutenant (Lt) James Jackson at Camp Suter in Kabul
Photo courtesy of Sergeant Dan Bardsley

Lieutenant (Lt) James Jackson at Camp Suter in Kabul . Photo courtesy of Sergeant Dan Bardsley - Credit: Sergeant Dan Bardsley

A former Verulam School pupil has swapped his day job studying forces of nature to become part of the armed forces, protecting troops in Kabul in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant James Jackson, 29, has been deployed on a six month tour as a force protection troop leader with C Squadron, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Scots DG).

But before joining the army, James’s physics research contributed to an experiment by the CERN organisation which made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science, identifying what is believed to be the Higgs Boson – the long-sought maker of mass.

But despite his achievements in science, James admitted: “Although I had a real passion for particle physics, there was always this niggling feeling in the back of my mind saying while this is very enjoyable and hugely fascinating, I want to be in the Army.”

James signed up at 27 years old and completed a year at Sandhurst, where he was awarded the Queen’s Medal.

This is given to the cadet who achieves the highest mark in everything that is assessed including academic work and physical training.

In Afghanistan, James is serving on an operation as part of the Kabul support unit, heading up a team of six which conducts a range of tasks throughout the city.

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This includes providing protection to the Afghan media operations cell and any journalists or media personnel visiting Kabul.

James said: “Although we’ve been trained in our core role for very rapid and aggressive armoured warfare, here it’s all about fitting into the life of Kabul.

“Our role is to ensure that UK forces are protected and can move around safely.

“We go to a variety of places with this media role. It’s a pretty crazy place, but I really like it.”

With his tour ending in February next year, James is keen to pass on some of his science knowledge to universities in Kabul, and has contacted them to see if they would be interested in working with him in the future.