News: Missouri Guard engineer retires with more than three decades of service
Story by Sgt. Mark Owen
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - A member of the Missouri National Guard is hanging up his uniform after more than 30 years of service to his state and country.
Col. G Mark Bartley joined the Guard in 1985 after graduating Pittsburg State University on the advice of his father, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hobart C. Bartley
Bartley, who needed to have an age waiver to enlist at age 29, said basic training was not hard for him despite being one of the oldest recruits.
“A lot of Soldiers were young kids who hadn’t done any sports or anything like that,” Bartley said. “My father was a retired chief warrant officer, a Korean War Veteran, served two tours in Vietnam, mentored me, and said, ‘You need to get fit.’”
Bartley followed his dad’s advice and trained on his run, push-ups and sit-ups for six months prior to enlisting. That preparation paid off and was fully noticed.
“I smoked all the kids in the company, and I was the first one to max a PT test within the basic training company,” Bartley said.
The drive which pushed Bartley through basic training carried him to the rank of sergeant and leading a team to Panama within a few months.
Returning from Panama, Bartley attended officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Ga., and received his commission as an engineer with the Missouri National Guard.
Bartley’s next assignment was Fort Belvoir, Va., for the engineer-advanced course. Bartley planned on coming back to Missouri, but shifted gears when an opportunity presented itself.
“I went before a commandant’s board, essentially it’s like an E-5 promotion board where one Guardsman and one Reservist got a three-year active duty tour,” Bartley said.
That three-year tour turned into a 10-year assignment.
After honoring his commitment to the Army, Bartley returned to the Missouri National Guard. While on assignment in southwest Missouri, another opportunity knocked on Bartley’s door.
“I went down to Joplin to do some staff inspections of some of the different companies - Bravo Company in Carthage – and talked with a lieutenant who worked for Wal-Mart as a construction manager,” Bartley said. “Long of the short of it, two weeks later I was working for Wal-Mart.”
Staying with the Missouri National Guard, Bartley moved to Arkansas to work for Wal-Mart headquarters as a construction manager. This new role allowed him to work in designing, constructing, project managing, and remodeling Wal-Mart facilities.
His work as an engineer for Wal-Mart and the Army fit hand-in-hand. His civilian job and education made him a better Soldier, while his military experience made him a better employee. That experience is not unique for a Citizen-Soldier, Bartley said.
“The skills that we bring from our civilian jobs amplify what we bring to the theater and to war,” Bartley said
Bartley put his Wal-Mart position on hold to deploy to support overseas contingency operations. He put his engineering skills to use in Iraq with the 35th Engineer Brigade’s Design Maintenance Section in 2003- 2004. Nearly seven years later, he was commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Herat Area Office in Afghanistan.
Throughout his deployment, his civilian employer was nothing but supportive, Bartley said.
“Wal-Mart has been a good mix, a good partner with my activations,” Bartley said. “I couldn’t ask for a better company to be affiliated with and still do my military duty. The Wal-Mart policies and associates are very supportive.”
In January, Bartley cleaned out his office at the Joint Forces Headquarters in Jefferson City and prepared for his last travel assignment at Fort Leonard Wood. It was there he started his career as a young private first class almost three decades ago, and there he returned to retire as a full-bird colonel. Though he is hanging up his uniform, Bartley said he is not going far from his brothers and sisters in arms.
“I want to stay in touch with the recruiting command and help support them anyway I can,’ Bartley said. “I won’t leave it.”
He already has a couple potential recruits lined up.
“I have a couple grandsons around here who spoke about joining the Air Force, continuing that heritage,” Bartley said
Bartley says he couldn’t have had such a successful career without the backing of his family.
“Through a man’s 30-year career, he couldn’t have done it without family and friends,” Bartley said. “All these people here have been a blessing. You can’t just do it yourself.”