Face of Defense: Elite Security Marine Serves in Afghanistan
By Marine Corps Master Sgt. Brenda Varnadore
Regional Command Southwest
NOW ZAD, Oct. 31, 2012 Marine Corps Cpl. Austen Clark said his decision to join the Corps five years ago was an easy one, especially since he was guaranteed a job to protect the president.
Clark, the 2nd squad leader for 1st Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, said he decided after graduating from high school in 2007 that the Marine Corps Security Forces was his destiny.
“My granddad was in,” the Morristown, Ind., native said. “He was [communications] though. I didn’t want to go to college so I joined.”
After graduating from recruit training and infantry school, Clark headed to the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., while his security clearance went through. Once all necessary investigations were done, it was time for him to head to Camp David in Maryland to protect then-President George W. Bush.
“President Bush was a huge mountain biker,” Clark recalled. “We would always see him out riding. He was hilarious though, and always had time to talk and laugh with us.”
After President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Clark said, he had the chance to not only provide security for him, but to also play some basketball with the commander-in-chief.
Clark moved up quickly while with Security Forces and earned a billet as Reactionary Force Commander, making him responsible for two security teams. His more than three years at Camp David made Clark realize, he said, that his ultimate goal is federal service after his Marine Corps service ends.
“I want to eventually get on with the Secret Service or U.S. Marshals,” Clark said. “I was going to do it from [Camp David] with all the connections, but I was scheduled for [2nd Bn., 7th Marines] and knew they were deploying soon. That is what I joined to do, so I re-enlisted.”
After Clark arrived at 2nd Bn., 7th Marines, he found out his deployment was not to Afghanistan as he originally thought, but to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. While with the 31st MEU, he found himself in Australia.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” Clark said. “Being able to train with the Australians was a great opportunity.”
Clark said he found out quickly when he arrived at a regular infantry battalion, however, that he would have to prove himself as a leader.
“I love what I do and being here with a very prideful unit helped,” Clark said. “It was an uphill battle, but I proved myself and have progressed to squad leader.”
Clark is finally in Afghanistan and said he’s set some definite goals for himself.
“I waited five and a half years to get out here,” he said. “I want to try to use the time to sharpen my skills as a Marine and try to pick up sergeant.”
Whether Clark decides to stay in the Marine Corps for the long haul or transfer to federal service, he said, his parents will always be supportive and proud of him.