CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, Iraq -- Growing up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, Gary Robison grew up fishing in small streams and listened to country classics like Conway Twitty and the Oak Ridge Boys. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the Marine Corps that he found a new outlook on life and music as he began listening to alternative metal bands like Korn. But there’s one thing about music that hasn’t changed for him, and that’s his passion for playing the trombone, which the Corps has helped him develop for nearly a decade now.
Robison plays in the 2nd Marine Division Band, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. His unit deployed here earlier this year and he’s had to put the horn away, for the time being, to take up arms as he serves in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 27-year-old platoon sergeant is now part of the camp’s guard force, dedicated to protecting the general, his staff and everyone who lives and works here. He is in charge of approximately 40 Marines who have trained outside of their normal military occupational specialties to become basic riflemen. His, and their, recent experiences have given them a wealth of understanding of what it means to be riflemen.
“When I joined back in 1996 I planned on being in the band and that part of my plan has come true,” said Robison. “I never thought I’d do anything like this. When I got to Lejeune, I jumped right into the training.”
Robison, a 1996 Bethlehem Center High School graduate was stationed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., where he played trombone. It wasn’t until he arrived at Camp Lejeune that he found his new band wouldn’t be a band at all.
“I’ve been playing the bass trombone since fourth grade – that’s 17 years already” said Robison. “I was used to working with a small number of people. Out here, I’ve had to train and work alongside people from a lot of different units.”
The camp’s guard is primarily members of the band, who have been through advanced infantry-type training like the enhanced marksmanship program and stability and security operations training that deals specifically with methods learned from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the other part of the camp’s security force is made up of Marines from artillery units, administration and communications sections to name just a few.
Robison has learned a few things outside of the box when it comes to his job as a Marine. Until now, it has been about his success. He plans to stay in the Corps for twenty years and retire. His career goals include becoming a drum major and an enlisted conductor, having a basic understanding of all of the instruments in the band. But for now, it’s about the success of his Marines.
“It’s all about my Marines,” said Robison. “When I wake up in the morning, it’s for them. I was told a long time ago by a staff sergeant that if I don’t like things the way they are, stay in long enough to fix them. Well, that’s what I’m doing.”