CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Chase Delancey spent his childhood searching for ways to escape from his small coal mining town, Elysburg Pa. His first diversion was computers, when he’d spend long hours behind the screen learning how to build and repair computers. But he didn’t realize until a few years ago that his portal out was closer than he thought. His out was the Marine Corps Recruiting Station next to the sandwich shop he visited so often.
Lance Cpl. Delancey is the quintessential Marine, flaunting his blond flat top haircut and barrel-chested stance as he stands sentry post with this rifle. He is also the perfect computer nerd. His ovular spectacles shrink his eyes to dime-sized jewels that glint with alertness, and at the same time, portray his weariness from long hours behind a console. Some of his friends even liken him to the comedy show host from “Whose Line is it Anyway?” Drew Cary . . . on steroids.
Delancey is a tactical data network specialist with the 2nd Marine Division, dedicated to being one of a handful of Marines who create, maintain and troubleshoot the network that links the Marines in the combat operations center here to the information highway.
When he first stepped onto the yellow footprints that all enlisted Marines do when they arrive at boot camp, he stood in a long line of men and women choosing to serve their country at war. And he’s had more than enough chances. This is his first time participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but he also did a stint in Afghanistan with the 6th Marine Regiment for Operation Enduring Freedom last year.
“When I was in Surobi, Afghanistan, I loved it,” said the 22-year-old, 2001 graduate of Southern Columbia High School. “I set up the network for them and I was actually able to do what I intended to enlist for.”
When he first went to that recruiter’s office, he had the intention of signing up as a machine gunner. But as he wasn’t an adult at age 17, he needed a parent’s signature for a waiver. That crushed his plans.
“My mother wouldn’t sign,” said Delancey. “But at least I got to man a grenade launcher and work at an entry control point there with the infantry. I even challenged the grunts to a competition to disassemble and reassemble MK-19 (grenade launcher) and I won with two minutes and 34 seconds. Apparently that’s pretty good.”
Here, Delancey also has the chance to tote his rifle around the camp. He’s a member of the combat operations center guard force, protecting the general, his staff and everyone who works here.
“When I’m on post, I like to make it entertaining,” said Delancey. “I like to be loud and let everybody know I’m there and I see them. I make a lot of people smile and laugh and that’s what counts around here.”
Delancey was also fortunate enough to have attended the military school that taught tactical data networking. He attended school from May until December in his first year, barring some down time between classes. Now, his credentials include being able to operate encrypted computer and radio systems, work with specialized rugged computers and serve as a technician with military grade fiber optic cable that is tactically shielded.
He’s been integral in planning networks, building them from the ground up, producing connectivity with the users and maintaining the system. It’s a job that could rake in big cash on the outside, but Delancey doesn’t do it for the money. He has real passion for the job.
“It all started when I was in eighth grade,” said Delancey. “I first took the Visual Basic course and C++ learning the basic programming language. Eventually I became A+ Core certified to build and repair computers and now here I am.”
If that all that sounds confusing, it doesn’t matter anyway. Because for Delancey, it comes down to one simple thing – being one of “The Few, The Proud.”
“It might sound cheesy, but when I wake up and put this uniform on, that’s all I care about,” said Delancey. “Especially around the other branches of service, I feel I can hold my head a little higher and walk a little taller. Being a Marine is where it’s at for me.