By Sgt. Manda Walters, 129th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentJuly 14, 2013
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - "Last time I was here, I was a [squad automatic weapon] gunner: a private," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Bartlett, master gunner, 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," said Bartlett. "Now I am making sure the company is set, ready to go, prepared and supported."
While John 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 joined his father, Stephen Bartlett, 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, June 25.
Stephen'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," said Stephen. "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 Department of Defense 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," said John. "It's a process."
John's 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 John's better understanding as a testament to his maturity.
"He has grown up," Denise 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 John's dad that being deployed makes you appreciate home even more.
Home for the Bartlett's is a 230-acre ranch outside Jonesboro, Texas, where the Bartlett's host family gatherings. There, John, 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," said Stephen.
For now, the family gathers for dinner at a nearby dining facility before John and Bravo Co. move out on retrograde missions in RC-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, a leader of more than 25 soldiers. His parents will keep in touch with John's 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 okay," said John, "that is all I worry about."
The Bartlett's 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," said John. "Do the mission first."