CAMP RIPPER, Al Asad, Iraq -- When some Marines in the Al Anbar province eat their meals, they can be assured that a master sergeant known as the ‘Food Doctor’ has given those dishes his blessing.
Master Sgt. Filipo A. Bartley, the Regimental Combat Team-2 mess chief knows the importance of a good meal for his Marines, as he is responsible for all food services for RCT-2.
“I have to travel to all posts in the upper Al Anbar province, to make sure the Marines are getting the food they need to properly carry out their mission,” the 46-year-old said. “They call me the ‘Food Doctor’ because I’ll fix any food problems in no time.”
Bartley has come a long way in his life. He grew up in Western Samoa where he was the second youngest of nine children in an underprivileged family.
“It was hard growing up because sometimes we didn’t have a lot of food. So I know how hard it can be to function when you are not at full strength,” Bartley said remembering tougher times.
Bartley was the only child to make it to the United States. It was his parents’ dream.
“When I was growing up my father would always talk about America and how good it was over there. He worked with Marines during World War II and the love for their country always impressed him. I knew then that I wanted to go to America and become a Marine,” he said.
Bartley graduated from high school in 1977 and began to work on his father’s plantation for the next two years so he could earn money to gain passage to America. He finally achieved that goal in 1979 when he enlisted.
“I didn’t really speak English well until I was 21, but I had a lot of help from my Marine Corps brethren,” Bartley said.
“That meant a lot to me when I was a younger Marine. I try to help some of the younger Marines around me by being the type of person they can relate to.”
Even though he was a Marine, his U.S. citizenship was put on hold for 20 years. The September 11 tragedy changed that.
“I became a citizen in a mass ceremony right after that event. That incident overshadowed the joy of me finally becoming a citizen. I was not going to let someone harm the country I had dreamed of being in as a child and waited so many years to become a citizen without doing something,” Bartley said.
He finally got his chance to deploy during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and has now returned for the second time.
“My wife and kids know how much this country and the Marine Corps mean to me,” Bartley said proudly. “They both gave me the chance to live a better life and I’ll do whatever they need me to.”
“Also, the look on a young Marine’s face after they have eaten well lets me know that I’ve done my part.”
Bartley will have served 26 years in service in August and will turn 47 later this month. As his retirement draws near, he is still weighing his options on whether to re-enlist or not.
“My wife is an American-born Samoan and has never been to the country. I hope to retire over there when I’m done,” Bartley said with a smile. “I have given my kids a chance for a better life than I had while I was growing up and I owe it all to the Marine Corps.
“Some may say negative things about the Corps, but after all these years I’ll still have nothing but good things to say about the service that gave me a chance to live my and my parents’ dream,” he said.