Monday, May 29, 2006
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Michael Jordan's big brother ends Army career

Retiring sergeant major's service called `slam dunk' for military

Associated Press

based at fort bragg He has the same self-confidence, the same cleanly shaven head, the same famous last name as his brother. But James Jordan has always been his own man.

While his younger brother, Michael, made history on the basketball court, James Jordan forged a distinguished career in a different uniform -- Army green.

Now he has retired after 31 years, one more than required because he chose to stay and accompany his unit on a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq.

"The Army was my life," he said recently. "That's why I dedicated myself to it. I felt I could be very successful in it. It didn't require me to be 6 foot. It just required me to be physically fit."

Jordan, who stands about 5 feet 7 inches and is 48, rose to become command sergeant major of the 35th Signal Brigade, the Army's only airborne signal brigade, based at Fort Bragg. That's the top job for an enlisted signal soldier.

"Jordan may be short in height when it comes to his brother, but, man, he scored a slam dunk every time as a sergeant major," said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Allen, the senior noncommissioned officer of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps.

When Michael Jordan became an NBA star in the 1980s, his older brother had already spent about a decade in the military.

He asked himself a question: "OK, what are you going to be? Are you going to ride a coattail or are you going to keep doing like you are doing?"

There never really was much doubt for a man who learned his work ethic during summers in the farm fields of southeastern North Carolina.

"One of the first things I learned before I went into the Army was that I was the oldest of five kids," he said. "My mom told me, `You have to earn everything you get.' "

His troops' dedication to him was evident during a retirement ceremony at Fort Bragg April 13.

"Do you know that, even though Michael Jordan was out there, everybody was still in line to shake Sergeant Major Jordan's hand, not to pay homage to his brother," Allen said. "I thought that was so cool."