MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines make many sacrifices to serve their country. At any given time they may be called upon to support their nation and travel into dangerous territory.
Sgt. Mark S. Barnes, from Paulding, Ohio, is no exception. He will deploy to Iraq for the second time in two years this summer.
The vehicle commander with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment deployed to Al Qa’im, Iraq from February to September 2005.
One memory from that deployment that sticks out in his mind is Operation Matador a weeklong operation that was conducted north of the Euphrates River in May. The mission was to disrupt and destroy insurgent strongholds in the Ramana region, a region that hadn’t been visited by U.S. forces in over a year.
“During the first day of Operation Matador, we were conducting a resupply to Camp Gannon in Husaybah (a town on the Iraq-Syria border) and later that night, we were called out to set up positions for some of the other units on the operation,” said the 1999 Paulding High School graduate.
After being tasked out through the night, Barnes and his fellow Marines were sent through the city of Karabilah to insure no one came across a key bridge within the city.
The Marines were ambushed by insurgents and completely surrounded.
“We were taking AK-47, RPK-74 light machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire for about two hours before we were relieved by another Combined Anti-Armor Team,” said the 25-year-old Marine leader. “We were able to repel the attack with few casualties. It was, no doubt, exciting and a feeling you can’t experience anywhere else.”
Barnes’ experiences in combat have made him confident in his abilities, but he said it is difficult, in today’s war to anticipate what it will be like in Iraq even after being there.
“Everything changes on a day-to-day basis,” he explained. “This time we’ll be operating in a different area of the country. Being there the first time has helped me understand how the enemy operates.”
The young veteran will be a vehicle commander again during his second tour, but this time he will have a fresh team of Marines straight out of training, a task that Barnes is ready to tackle.
“The hardest part of this deployment is going to be having all new Marines not knowing what to expect,” he said. “I’ve explained to my Marines that it’s going to be a culture shock and it’s going to be difficult experiencing combat for the first time.”
Barnes’ biggest task and main goal is to train his junior Marines for deployment.
“My job is to train my Marines and to bring them home safely,” he explained. “Mission accomplishment is the only thing I care about. I’m tasked with and order and I execute it. My Marines’ safety is a big part of that mission.”
As Barnes’ second deployment is on the horizon, he finds himself recalling the greatest feeling of his first tour, coming home.
“When I stepped off the plane and was back in the U.S. with my fiancé and family, it was the greatest feeling of my life,” he said.
During Barnes’ upcoming deployment, he plans to reenlist. He is also looking into becoming a recruiter and going to college on the side. But he explained that no matter what he does, he appreciates everything in life more because of his experiences in a combat zone.
“I appreciate everything I have so much more and I look forward to finishing this tour and continuing my career with the Corps,” Barnes said.