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Afghanistan mission central to U.S. family

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 4:30 am

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — “Last time I was here, I was a (squad automatic weapon) gunner: a private,” said Staff Sgt. John Bartlett, master gunner with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

A lot has changed since Bartlett deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.

“I used to be told what to do,” Bartlett said. “Now I am making sure the company is set, ready to go, prepared and supported.”

While he works to ensure the support of his company, he is getting some unexpected family support as well.

Bartlett’s parents are in Afghanistan, too.

John Bartlett joined his father, Stephen Bartlett, a civilian battalion support operations officer, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, and his mother, Denise Bartlett, a contractor with Science Applications International Corps, at Bagram Air Field on June 25.

Stephen Bartlett’s retrograde and sustainment mission across Regional Command-East and Regional Command-North means he has unique insights that can help his son.

“I give him as much information as I can about what is going on to help him better understand,” Stephen Bartlett said. “He sees a lot of things that I do that he didn’t realize — things that are done behind the scenes.”

When it comes to Defense Department civilians and contractors, mission-oriented service members don’t always recognize what these collaborators do behind the scenes.

“I didn’t realize how much it took to get a single vehicle ready until now,” John Bartlett said. “It’s a process.”

His mother runs a repair parts shop, assisted in the MaxxPro vehicle upgrade, and is now responsible for the close-out of Joint Program Office Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

She knows this process and sees her son’s better understanding as a testament to his maturity.

“He has grown up,” Denise Bartlett said. “It’s not so much gaining importance, as much as him gaining professionalism and maturity. Back home, he is just our son and our grandkids’ dad. Here he is Staff Sgt. Bartlett.”

Many service members would agree with Stephen Bartlett that being deployed makes you appreciate home even more.

Home for the Bartletts is a 230-acre ranch outside Jonesboro, where they host family gatherings. There, John Bartlett, his seven brothers and sisters, wife and three children can enjoy relaxing activities like skeet shooting, riding horses, fishing, hog hunting and all-terrain vehicle driving.

“It will be a place for everyone to come back to,” Stephen Bartlett said.

For now, the family gathers for dinner at a nearby dining facility before John Bartlett’s company moves out on retrograde missions in Regional Command-East.

Stephen and Denise said they are proud of their son and believe they are fortunate they can provide support to him during his deployment.

Their support means less stress for John Bartlett, a leader of more than 25 soldiers. His parents will keep in touch with his wife back home and keep her informed while he is out on mission.

“My main concern over here is to make sure my company is OK,” the staff sergeant said. “That is all I worry about.”

The Bartletts have more than 35 years of combined military experience, which they put to work in accomplishing their missions in Afghanistan. What makes them unique is their doing so is a family effort.

“You’re here to do a job,” John said. “Do the mission first.”

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