Face of Defense: Submarine Officer Serves in New Role
By Army Spc. B. Todd Willis
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Jan. 5, 2010 In wartime, servicemembers often are required to master and perform duties outside their area of expertise.
Navy Lt. David M. Bartles reviews a report of operations being conducted in eastern Afghanistan at the joint operations command center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. B. Todd Willis
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Lt. David M. Bartles, 29, spent his three previous years of duty on a nuclear submarine. Now, he’s the night-shift battle captain for the Combined Joint Task Force 82 information operations section.
“It’s definitely a big change from what I am used to, but it’s pretty exciting,” Bartles said.
The information operations section works with other sections in the communications action group in a variety of duties, including generating content that appears on radio and television stations in eastern Afghanistan. Servicemembers who accept duties outside their area of expertise incur some unique challenges.
“The most difficult thing thus far is the pace,” Bartles said. “You have to learn your job and the organization very quickly. You’re expected to be effective from Day One, and failure here can have profound effects.”
His day-shift counterpart says Bartles has stepped up to the challenge effectively.
“I am definitely surprised at how quickly Lieutenant Bartles made the transition from working on a nuclear submarine to this,” said Army Lt. Christopher L. Hunt, day-shift information operations battle captain.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Military Institute and a master’s degree in engineering management from Old Dominion University, Bartles received two years of training in nuclear engineering in preparation for his duties on a submarine. During his six years serving in the Navy, Bartles has earned two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Expeditionary Medals and five Overseas Service Awards.
“The best thing about working on a submarine is the camaraderie,” he said. “The crew is pretty small, and we have to depend on each other to get through the day. We build strong relationships by sharing the hardships of life underwater.”
Still, Bartles said, opportunities to get off the sub were welcome during deployments.
“Port calls aren’t anything new to the Navy, but we ended up spending six weeks in Perth, Australia, one time,” he said. “The city was awesome. It had friendly people and beautiful beaches and an exciting nightlife. Also, I won a poker tournament and took a tour of southwest Australia, hopping from one park to the next.”
Bartles grew up in Falling Water, W.Va. He has two sisters and a brother, who also serves in the Navy.
“The hardest part of military service for me is being away from my family and friends,” Bartles said. “I have been able to keep in touch using the Internet, and it will be nice to take the family out for dinner when I get home.”
Though his duty here has been a new experience, Bartles said, he’s learned a great deal from it.
“I’ve gotten to work with people from other services and field areas,” he explained. “This has given me a better perspective on our effort here in Afghanistan.”
(Army Spc. B. Todd Willis serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 82 public affairs office.)