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Oboe Player Gets Into the Fight

By Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service

HIT, Iraq, Oct. 30, 2007 – When Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway earlier this year sent a message to all Marines titled, “Every Marine into the fight,” he gave an oboe player with the Marine band at the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center an opportunity he thought would never materialize.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Sgt. Regan Young, an oboe player by trade, poses for a photograph in Hit, Iraq. The Arlington, Va., native is serving as the police sergeant for 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, after requesting to deploy under the commandant of the Marine Corps' guidance of “Every Marine into the fight.” Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, USMC

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

Sgt. Regan Young joined the Marine Corps during 2004 with an open contract in the hopes of seeing the world and experiencing life outside of Arlington, Va., where he was born and raised. However, he ended up with a military occupational specialty, one of only a very few, that is rarely deployed because oboe players are so rare in the Marine Corps.

“I didn’t join the Marine Corps to go in the band,” the 21-year-old said. “I had done that my whole life and wanted something new under my belt.”

Young began playing the oboe at Yorktown High School and found he was excellent at it. He said his love for the instrument is one he will always have, but that he wanted as a passion, not as a job.

“My recruiter knew I played the oboe,” he said. “During the first phase of boot camp, we were practicing for initial drill, and I got called out and there was a recruiter, my senior drill instructor and all my chain of command. They started asking me questions about what I played and how long I have been playing. Once I auditioned, they told me I was going to be in the band. I didn’t really have a choice. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to do it; I just wanted to do something else.”

Young’s chance to do something else arrived when the commandant said no Marine would be held back from answering their nation’s call. After reading the message, Young immediately put in an administrative action form requesting to “go forward.”

“After I put in my AA form, I would literally bug my company commander two to three times a day,” Young said. “He was all about Marines deploying and really helped push to get me here. I later learned it may not have been the AA form that got me here, but after six months of bugging the right people and just constant persistence, the powers that be said, ‘Fine if this is what you want, we are going to give it to you.’”

Now, Young is the assistant camp commandant and police sergeant with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, serving in Hit, Iraq. He said the Marines he works with understand how hard he fought, so they bring him out on missions with them.

“It is everything I imagined,” Young said. “I love interacting with the people, seeing a different culture. Being deployed with an infantry battalion is letting me get a taste of the Marine Corps I never would have had the opportunity to see, and I don’t plan on wasting it.”

Young plans on returning to the band when he returns to the States. He wants to perfect saxophone skills he has learned since joining the service.

“I burned some bridges, but I think that was only people who took it personally and felt like I didn’t want to be with them in the band. But, what it was is, I just wanted to do something different,” Young said. “If I could be in any band, it would be the Marine Corps Band. I just don’t think people join the Marine Corps to play music; that wasn’t my intent. I love the Marine Corps and have had a great career so far. I think it is only going to get better. But, I am never happy staying with one thing, that is why this job is so great for me.”

(Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore is assigned to 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)

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