CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Deployments can be trying times for Marines in Afghanistan. Working long hours every day can take their toll over the course of a year-long tour. Most do well – they are trained to operate in such conditions and perform their duties honorably.
Then there is Cpl. Austin Barton of Charleston, S.C.
Barton has exceeded the expectations set before him while serving with 2nd Marine Division (Forward) at Camp Leatherneck. Recently, Barton’s performance was recognized when he won the title of Headquarters Battalion (Forward) noncommissioned officer of the 3rd quarter for fiscal year 2011.
Barton serves as the combat operations center watch chief for 2nd MarDiv (Fwd), a role he was put in because of his reputation for being reliable and getting results.
Barton built a reputation for being a stellar Marine before deploying in February, said Pensacola, Fla., native Staff Sgt. Richard Pinner, the 2nd MarDiv (Fwd) collections chief for the intelligence section. Knowing this, those in charge had every intention of giving Barton additional responsibilities typically reserved for much higher-ranking Marines.
“He was put in the combat operations center, which is not a desirable billet, however it’s something that has to get done,” said Pinner. “He was performing the duties and tasks of a lieutenant.”
Barton’s duties as watch chief have him analyzing activity within the division’s area of operations and briefing the intel section. He also acts as an intelligence liaison to those in charge on the ground.
“I focus on what is going on in the battlespace on a constant basis – where the enemy is, where they are attacking,” said Barton. “I have to analyze that and provide (an) operational picture to the intelligence section. While doing that, I also provide an intelligence picture to the operations side.”
Barton, who has been in the Marine Corps for five years, is a former infantryman who moved to the intel field when he reenlisted. Barton’s experience in the infantry has given him an uncanny ability to see through the eyes of Marines on the ground without actually being there, a skill that prepared him well for the intel field.
“Understanding what (the infantryman) is looking for and understanding what they’re seeing on the battlefield without actually being there, aides you significantly when trying to provide an intelligence picture,” said the 22-year-old Barton.
“(It) really helps because you have the opportunity to speak from both sides and bring that middle ground when ideas don’t meet.”
Barton’s proficiency at his job is complemented by motivation. His ability to inspire others has been infectious throughout the intel section.
“Corporal Barton is the most intense and enthusiastic Marine that I’ve met in the (intelligence section),” said Philadelphia native 1st Lt. Joseph Timoteo, the 2nd MarDiv (Fwd) intelligence operations center watch officer. “The longer he’s been here, the more enthusiastic he’s become about his job. Then he pushes that off on others and it’s refreshing to see.”
Barton says his drive to perform comes from his love of being a Marine in what he believes is the pinnacle of any Marine’s career – being deployed.
“My motivation comes from being out here (in Afghanistan),” said Barton. “Being deployed is the greatest part of (a Marine’s) career because that’s when (they) are really affecting the rest of the world.”
It is no surprise Barton has thrived in Afghanistan after one scratches beneath the surface. He grew up in a military family and lived in many different places before the age of 17 including Utah, Arizona, Maryland and even Japan. His family instilled structure in him at a young age, he said, and there was never a doubt he would serve in the Armed Forces.
“The way I saw my dad get set up, basically coming from almost nothing to where he is today – it’s inspiring,” said Barton. (The Marine Corps) will definitely set me up for so many other things.”
Barton is approximately at the midway point of his deployment and will be getting a much-deserved chance to relax and enjoy some American food when he goes on a rest and recuperation period in the near future. He plans on taking the opportunity to relax because he knows he will be expected to perform when he gets back to Afghanistan.
“I’ve been dreaming about a Whopper for about a month now,” said Barton. “I’m going to sit on my couch with a Whopper, my dogs, my daughter and my wife. I am going to relax for a change, something that I don’t get to do very often out here.”
Editor’s note: Headquarters Battalion (Forward) is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.