BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – One job is aboard a nuclear submarine and is responsible for $500 million worth of equipment. Another job requires knowledge and analysis of insurgent messaging and propaganda in newsprint, radio and television. One requires a service member to be underwater for months at a time. The other involves working at a computer for 10 hours-a-day.
See the connection here? No?
That is okay, because there is no connection besides the fact that in today’s armed services, America’s best are often required to quickly master and perform duties that are outside their area of expertise. U.S. Navy Lt. David M. Bartles, 29, is one of many service members here in Afghanistan that rises to the occasion to fill roles required of them during war-time. Bartles, who spent the three previous years of duty on a nuclear submarine, is now 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, the work I mean,” Bartles said.
The information operations section at Bagram works with other sections in the communications action group to do a variety of duties, including generating content that appears on the radio and television stations in eastern Afghanistan.
The service members who accept duties that are outside their area of expertise incur some unique challenges.
“The most difficult thing thus far is the pace. 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,” Bartles said.
Those working with Bartles are quick to give their opinion.
“I am definitely surprised at how quickly Lt. Bartles made the transition from working on a nuclear submarine to this,” said U.S. 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 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 received two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Expeditionary Medals and five Overseas Service Awards.
“The best thing about working on a submarine is the camaraderie. The crew is pretty small and we have to depend on each other to get through the day,” Bartles said. “We build strong relationships by sharing the hardships of life underwater.”
Bartles enjoyed his time off the sub during a deployment.
“Port calls aren’t anything new to the Navy, but we ended up spending six weeks in Perth, Australia one time. The city was awesome, it had friendly people and beautiful beach and an exciting nightlife,” Bartles said. “Also, I won a poker tournament and took a tour of southwest Australia hopping from one park to the next.”
Growing up in Falling Water, West Virginia, Bartles is the youngest son of Melissa and David Bartles. He has two sisters and a brother, who is also 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.”
Bartles acknowledges that his new duties have benefited him.
“I’ve gotten to work with people from other services and field areas. This has given me a better perspective on our effort here in Afghanistan,” Bartles said.
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