You could say that Kevin’s work as a Data Marine was considerably more challenging than helping your grandmother check her email. As a Tactical Data Network Operator, Kevin supported his fellow Marines in Helmand Province.
I literally had no idea what do after high school. I worked at a sandwich shop, had no plans for college, and money was tight. I wanted to go see the world and do some crazy stuff. But I remember telling my recruiter, “I don’t want to go to Iraq, dude.”
I was just looking for something to do. I chose the Marines because of their reputation and the lifestyle they projected. The 18-year-old me noticed that uniform and that status and I said, “Yeah, I want that.”
So there I was, an unathletic kid at Marine Corps combat training. I wasn’t really ready for the weight you have to carry. It takes a lot of discipline to get stuff done right, and it can be super overwhelming for a young guy to get dumped into it. I had a lot to overcome. I wasn’t strong enough for most of the hikes and I couldn’t lift the gear. But I worked at it. I spent time at the gym in my off time, learning how to use my body, stretching right, and eating right. It’s a full time thing. Plus, I’ve got baby feet too, so they fall apart during hikes and runs. That was a rather unique obstacle I had to overcome.
I became THAT guy, the Data Marine. The guy who fixed anything that was plugged into the wall.
But, I made it through. I made it through combat training at Pendleton and I spent two separate stints in Twentynine Palms for communications training. I became that guy, the Data Marine. The guy who fixed anything that was plugged into the wall. I handled routers, computers, encryption devices, satellite antennas, radios, headsets, TVs, cameras … pretty much anything. Honestly, I felt proud to be this asset to the AO in Afghanistan. A network would go down in some remote location, and my team would run out to assist. I’d constantly get greeted with, “Hey, are you Gibson? You’re the guy here to fix this, right?”
The community of guys I mostly worked with in country were already very close-knit. I came in as an outsider, as just the guy to fix stuff. I pretty much got their blessing. They acknowledged me as the brains of the communications gear. To earn a reputation as a reliable Marine among those in the Special Operations Community is a very rewarding thing.
These Marines got to attend their battalion’s ball and remind everyone they were still over there kicking ass and taking names. It felt good to help make that happen.
Here’s a heartwarming story: Every year the Marine Corps celebrates its birthday with a ball. But with our company deployed, a lot of wives were left alone at the ball back home in California. Our communications officer in the states linked up with me in Afghanistan and another Marine and I were able to link our secure network terminals together to have a video teleconference the evening of the ball. So, during the commander’s address, he says “We have some special guests in the house!”, and that’s when the projector showed our bearded, filthy, exhausted commander and a bunch of other guys from the company who got to see their wives. All from a mud hut in some hell hole with bombs going off in the distance. These Marines got to attend their battalion’s ball and remind everyone they were still over there kicking ass and taking names. It felt good to help make that happen.
Returning home was a challenge for me. I felt like I’d not quite finished the job, and that I didn’t deserve to relax on the weekends. PTSD is a very real thing, and I’m thankful to the San Diego VA for the great treatment I received. I relied on the GI Bill to get me back onto a normal life routine, and I’m proud to report that I’m ready to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Audio Production. I’ve been a DJ and hip-hop producer under the name 3B for most of my life and the education I’ve received recently has only propelled my talents further. I plan to create, mix, master, and publish music until the day I die. If you want to hear some stuff, head over to Beatsby3B.com.
It is tough to put into words the bond you share with the guys you serve with. To be able to sleep in a compound because you know your buddy is on the roof with a machine gun making sure the bad guys don’t ruin your nap is amazing. You repay him by watching his back while he sleeps. This kind of trust is earned, never given. That’s brotherhood right there.