News: Swimming in a sea of green
Story by Cpl. Thomas Bricker
BARSTOW, Calif. - One would think joining the Navy would involve sailing on a ship at some point or being stationed near the sea.
Not only did one sailor miss out on these opportunities at his first duty station, he ended up in a polar opposite location: California’s High Desert … nowhere near the ocean.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Menges, the religious program specialist on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., didn’t quite get what he expected when he arrived here in August, 2012. Instead of being surrounded by water and wet sand with other sailors, the Auburn, Ind., native wound up by cacti and tumbleweed with a different breed of Navy personnel, the Marines.
Menges left for boot camp in late 2011 knowing exactly what he wanted from the Navy.
“I wanted to be a chaplain and talked to the recruiter,” said Menges. “When I found out I couldn’t be one at the time because of my degree, I thought I’d just work up to it,” he explained.
When it was time for Menges to receive his orders, all was going according to plan. Menges had his eye on orders to an aircraft carrier based in Washington state, but after last minute arrangements, he found himself on his way to the ‘green side.’
“I was hoping to get stationed somewhere in the fleet,” said Menges. “When I found out I was going to Barstow, I didn’t know what to expect,” he added.
‘Green side’ to the Navy is anything dealing with being on land or with the Marine Corps. Navy Personnel in the medical field, the Navy’s construction battalion, and the religious program, often work closely with Marine Corps personnel. It counteracts the Navy’s other end, ‘blueside,’ which deals with ocean-related work like ships and shoreline bases.
Initially, Menges was worried about adjusting to life with Marines in the desert. All of his training to that point prepared him for work with the Navy, explained Menges.
So, how has a religious program specialist looking for the ocean dealt with the desert?
“I didn’t know how I was going to get used to being here in Barstow. When I first got here, I just kept to myself,” said Menges. “I just watched and observed how Marines work: what their attitudes toward one another were, how they joked around with one another, and things like that,” he added.
Over the next few months, the Marines on base witnessed the transformation of Menges, from the soft-spoken sailor to being “one of the guys.”
“After I got used to being around [the Marines], Barstow got a lot easier,” explained Menges. “I even started the cigar committee up at base housing. A few Marines started coming over for that,” he added.
Once a week, Marines would join the religious program specialist outside his garage and enjoy cigars while they caught up with one another on what’s going on around the base.
The ‘RP’ finds working with Marines to be a proud job, and something that helps motivate him on a daily basis.
“At our ball for [the religious program specialists] on the USS Midway, I think 90 percent of the people there were blueside. So, when a speaker was talking to us and he concluded his speech, I thought it was funny that I was the only one yelling ‘oorah’ or ‘rah’ as applause,” explained Menges.
Now, when you see a formation running in the morning on the base, don’t be too confident it’s 100 percent Marine. Menges has joined in on physical training sessions, is eager to qualify with Marines on the rifle range, and looks forward to sharing many other experiences with his Marine brothers.