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Why I Serve: Keeping Lines of Communication Open

By Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Jan. 28, 2005 – "When my drill instructor came charging out asking, 'Who's the joker who thinks he's from the North Pole?' I knew I was in for it," Sgt. Brian F. Shelton, a Marine with 2d Tank Battalion here, said.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Sgt. Brian F. Shelton spends most of his day inside a wire cage, maintaining his unit's gear or working on their cryptological equipment. Photo by Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes, USMC
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"I explained to him that I really was from North Pole, Alaska, and had to show him my driver's license before he would believe me."

Shelton, a field wireman with 2nd Marine Division, is the man responsible for making sure people in the field and in garrison can communicate with each other. He's responsible for setting up the lines of communication for his unit.

"Things have come a long way since field wiremen had spools of wire hooked to their backs. Some things have changed, and some haven't," 25-year-old Shelton said.

The 5-foot-9-inch Marine spends most of his day inside a wire cage, maintaining his unit's gear or working on their cryptological equipment. Where many people would be depressed at having to spend their day in a cage, Shelton just sees as a nice alternative to where his life could have led.

"I was what you'd call a 'troubled youth'," Shelton said with a smile. "I was skipping class a lot, being disrespectful to my parents and I knew my life was headed in a bad direction."

Shelton was a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC unit at North Pole High School and had every intention of enlisting into the Air Force. He said one session with a Marine Corps recruiter changed his mind.

"My job for the unit here is very important and I wouldn't do anything else," he said. "My job not only involves providing communication for everyone but I keep them safe too."

When in the field the command operations center is set up away from the radio antennas, Shelton said.

"We set up the COC away from the 'ant farm' of antennas because an enemy can triangulate their position and if they attack it, we don't want our commanders to be in the same spot," he noted.

The Alaskan is known for helping people and taking charge in his unit. His superiors see him as the type of Marine they would want more of.

"Anytime I need something done, I know he is a reliable Marine to give the job to," said Gunnery Sgt. Stephen M. Urban, the Electronic Key Systems Management manager for the battalion. "When he gives his Marines an order you know it's going to be accomplished. I wished we had more Marines like him in the Corps."

(Marine Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes is a combat correspondent in 2nd Marine Division.)

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