He has served with the elite Special Forces and struggled to defeat Colombian drug traffickers. Now, Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman has an assignment that is less dangerous but every bit as sensitive: accompanying Nancy Reagan through the rituals surrounding former president Ronald Reagan's funeral.

Jackman, 52, the erect, graying general seen escorting the former first lady in California and in the nation's capital, became commanding general of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington a year ago. The military command, based at Fort McNair in Southwest Washington, coordinates the funeral arrangements for former presidents.

"From the moment [Jackman] arrived . . . he has been working on anticipating this day," said Sharon Thomas, a public affairs officer for the military district.

Jackman entered the Army after attending the University of Nebraska through the ROTC program, according to an official biography. The command he heads is nicknamed the "Guardian of the Nation's Capital," focusing on security but also playing an important role in official ceremonies such as the presidential inauguration and events to welcome visiting heads of state.

Jackman left Washington at 6:30 a.m. Sunday to accompany Nancy Reagan during official ceremonies to mourn her husband's death, Thomas said. The Washington military district staff had worked with representatives of the Reagan family on funeral plans, but Jackman had not previously met the former first lady.

Jackman's father, Virgil Jackman, said his son is undoubtedly at ease in his high-profile assignment, noting that he had held a variety of jobs in his military career. They include commanding a Delta squadron early in his career, serving as director of tactics at the Army Infantry School and his last assignment before heading to Washington: director of operations at the U.S. Southern Command, which assists in the fight against Colombian drug traffickers.

"He's military through and through," Virgil Jackman said from his home in Lincoln, Neb. "I can remember when he was back in the fifth grade; that was his dream."

Galen Jackman lives with his wife and two children at Fort Myer in Arlington.