HADITHA DAM, Iraq -- Communication assets in Iraq are needed in order to ensure Marines complete their missions while operating in a hostile environment.
Keeping these assets running for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, is Houston native, Cpl. Benjamin A. Varner, a maintenance technician who dedicates everyday to setting up, maintaining and repairing almost every communication network within the battalion.
On a daily basis, Varner works with six other people maintaining all of the battalion’s communications equipment, from something as small as a hand-held radio to keeping a company several miles away in touch with the battalion operations center.
“If the communication goes down in the battalion, we are the ones who fix it so it can be back up and running,” commented Varner, a 1995 graduate of Berean Christian School. “We work on the gear all the time, day or night.”
Now in a supervisory role, the 29-year-old Varner spends more time supervising Marines and organizing operational requirements than actually fixing the gear. He is responsible for tracking broken communication equipment, briefing his leaders on the status of the equipment and keeping the shop organized.
“He fills in as a platoon sergeant for the shop,” commented Master Sgt. Paul B. McMichael, communications chief and Caddo, Okla., native. “His never-quit attitude and the way he deals with the troops helps this shop run smoothly.”
According to McMichael, the knowledge Varner has of the equipment and his maturity level are that of someone beyond the rank he wears. Varner believes his success in the Marine Corps is related to his faith in God.
Growing up with a father who is a pastor and going to private, Christian schools his whole life has provided a base for his faith that keeps him going in his second deployment to Iraq. His faith is one thing that led him to the Marine Corps in May 2002.
While working for student services at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, the college Varner graduated from, he felt he was in a rut. Thinking of his future, he began looking at options that would change his life.
“At the time, I felt like I wasn’t being challenged enough,” Varner said. “I believe if you aren’t changing, you are failing. You have to push the envelope all the time.”
So when looking at his past and future, Varner decided to join the Marine Corps for a challenge and to give him life-long experiences. The challenges and experiences gained in the Marines is something meant to build credibility when working with inner city programs and preaching at church events.
“I’ve led a pretty good life,” Varner commented. “I grew up in a good neighborhood, my parents are still together and we always had food on the table.”
But when Varner talks to less fortunate kids at after-school programs and church functions, he feels, in order to relate to them, the preacher needs to overcome obstacles in his life too.
“I can say don’t do this and don’t do that to the kids, but unless you have been down that road, you can’t expect them to take you seriously,” Varner said.
With a second tour of experiences in Iraq complete in a few months, Varner looks forward to his future. He will most likely not re-enlist after his contract is up, but will take the many experiences he has had in the Marines back to Texas where he will help countless people.
“I think I will find my way back to preaching,” commented Varner. “Whether it is teaching or inner city programs, I will be back in people’s lives, helping them out.”