CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Sergeant Bartholomew, a percussionist with the 2nd Marine Division Band, was content banging on the drums until he deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, he’s found a new profession in the Marines and it has changed his life.
Benjamin Alan Bartholomew, a 22-year-old Mason City, Iowa native is now in charge of a small force of Marines with the camp’s guard force who ensure the security within the camp. They also patrol outside the walls of the camp searching for insurgent hideouts or weapons caches in the town.
Headquarters Battalion has charged him and his band member counterparts with being the camp’s ready reaction force during their deployment here. Now, after about six months on the job here, he’s found that the profession of arms was not only a break from his job as a musician, but a turning point in his life.
“The hardest part was getting here and training our augments to become a reaction force,” said the 2001 Mason City High School graduate. “We have the band here, but we also have people from different units augmenting the force. If they don’t know each other, they can’t train effectively.”
Bartholomew received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal before he deployed for his part in training nearly 1,000 Marines and sailors in the Enhanced Marksmanship Program and Security and Stability Operations. He taught everything from how use the rank structure in the guard force to how to shoot straight in a close quarters combat environment. The six-day training for battalion personnel was just a portion of what he and his Marines strived for many months before they deployed. He also had to teach his own Marines to instruct their augments in the same way upon deploying here.
“We’ve applied a decent amount of our training already,” said Bartholomew. “From vehicle and personnel searches to security patrols outside the camp in the orchards and neighborhoods, it’s been going well.”
His dedication to the job is unquestionable. Bartholomew extended past his end of active service date to stay deployed here. He figured that if he trained with these Marines and deployed with them, he should stay with them until the end – which for him, has come and past.
“My EAS was a month ago,” said Bartholomew. “I felt I needed to stay on with the rest of the guys. Being the internal force is a tough job. It wears on you mentally. We’re running 16 hour days some days.”
He seems to love it despite the tough times. Bartholomew plans to permanently change his profession from being a band member after the deployment. His experience as a troop leader has opened new doors.
“After I get out, I’m applying for the state highway patrol,” said Bartholomew. “I’ve learned how important the people around me are especially if you take contact. Your people are the only ones there. And if you don’t trust them, you’re gonna’ be lost.”