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By Marine Corps Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde
2nd Marine Division
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2011 – Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Barton of Charleston, S.C., keeps his “ear to the ground” here as he monitors enemy activity to inform and safeguard his fellow service members.
Barton serves as the combat operations center watch chief with the 2nd Marine Division’s intelligence section here, analyzing activity in the division’s area of operations and briefing the intelligence section. He also acts as a liaison to ground commanders.
“I focus on what is going on in the battle space on a constant basis -- where the enemy is, where they are attacking,” Barton explained. “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 was recognized as his battalion’s noncommissioned officer of the 3rd quarter for fiscal 2011, but he had built a reputation for being a stellar Marine before deploying to Afghanistan in February, said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richard Pinner, the collections chief for the division’s intelligence section.
Knowing this, Pinner said, Barton’s supervisors wanted him to assume high-profile tasks and 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, who hails from Pensacola, Fla. “He was performing the duties and tasks of a lieutenant.”
Barton, 22, has served in the Marine Corps for five years. He is a former rifleman who switched to the intelligence field when he re-enlisted. His infantry experience, Barton said, has given him an ability to see through the eyes of Marines on the ground without actually being there, a skill that prepared him well for the intelligence field.
“Understanding what [the infantryman] is looking for and understanding what they’re seeing on the battlefield without actually being there aids you significantly when trying to provide an intelligence picture,” he said. “[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 job proficiency and leadership ability are well known in the intelligence section, said Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joseph Timoteo, the division’s intelligence operations center watch officer.
“Corporal Barton is the most intense and enthusiastic Marine that I’ve met in the [intelligence section],” said Timoteo, a Philadelphia native. “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 said 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],” he said. “Being deployed is the greatest part of [a Marine’s] career, because that’s when [they] are really affecting the rest of the world.”