CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq -- On July 15, 2005, Orlando, Fla., native Sgt. David S. Bateman, assistant radio chief, communications platoon, Headquarters & Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division enlisted in the Marine Corps… six weeks later, he found himself serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Enlisted is the wrong word, more like re-enlisted.
In July 2001, Bateman finished up a four-year contract as a U.S. Marine field radio operator having served with Communications Company, 3rd Marine Division, Camp Courtney, Okinawa and Communications Platoon, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“After I got out, I went to junior college in Los Angeles for a year to study history,” said Bateman. “It was the ECC, the El Camino College. No kidding.”
After his year at junior college, he moved to San Diego and enrolled in the Mira Costa Community College to study English. College, however, proved not to be Bateman’s greater calling.
“In 2002, I went to my sister’s wedding in Orlando. The morning of the wedding, all the guys went out to play golf. I was petrified, I had never played,” said Bateman.
According to Bateman, he had an uncle there who helped him along in the game.
“After the game, I realized what a really great time I had playing. I really had the time of my life,” he said.
“I was living in California at the time, so when I got back I picked up a set of cheap clubs and started going to the driving range,” he said.
After six months of playing, his handicap sat around 18. A pretty good ranking, according to Bateman. He became hooked.
“The game ate me up,” he said. “When I was at school, all I could think about was playing golf. When I was working, all I could think about was playing golf. When I was home, all I could think about was playing golf.”
It was at this point Bateman decided to make something out of it. He moved to Orlando and enrolled in the Golf Academy of the South, an 18-month program costing Bateman over $20,000 which he paid using the Montgomery G.I. Bill and student loans.
“One of my teachers was Alan Flashner, a [Pro Golf Association] Master Professional,” said Bateman. “Essentially a doctor of golf.”
In August 2004, after finishing the academy, he took a job as a golf professional.
“The job basically entailed giving lessons, managing the pro shop and its staff,” said Bateman.
During this time, he also played for small amounts of money, he said.
After a year, however, and after his wife gave birth to his son Ethan, he decided to come back in to the Marine Corps.
“I came back in for the benefits and retirement,” said Bateman.
According to Bateman, in the golf industry there are great opportunities to make a lot of money, but, unless you’re consistently on tour, the benefits aren’t very good. There also is a certain social stigma within the golfing community that he had to face: his age.
“Most of the golfers I came across were older men, and being younger, only 25, it’s hard to establish credibility as a golfer,” he said.
“I can be a golf pro at any age,” said Bateman. “I’d feel more comfortable doing that job at the age of my clientele.”
After coming back in to the Marine Corps mid-July, he received orders to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines and discovered they were deploying to Iraq at the end of August, he said.
“I was surprised to be deploying so soon. My concern wasn’t that I was going, but that I’d have enough time to prepare,” he said. “I’m glad I’m having this experience, though.”
His wife, whom he married right after re-enlisting, felt differently, according to Bateman.
“She was upset, but very cool about it. She asked me a lot of questions and accepted it,” he said. “I’m more proud of her than I am of myself.
“People don’t realize that [outside of the Marine Corps] it can get pretty monotonous,” said Bateman. “In the Marines, you might have moments of monotony, but the scenery is always changing. The surroundings are always different.”
After his return to the United States from Iraq, Bateman plans to get what remaining college credits he needs to receive a degree and apply for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Program.
“Consider re-enlistment carefully, look at all the options before you get out,” he said. “If not, you might find yourself back in the Marines.”