FORWARD OPERATING BASE NOLAY, Afghanistan – One recent morning, while waiting in line for breakfast at the field mess hall at Forward Operating Base Nolay, Marines could hear the sound of blues music coming from a harmonica.
“They’re out of eggs right now, so I’m going to wait out here for them to finish the next batch,” said Cpl. Nathan Karasch, taking a break from his music.
Karasch, with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, has had a longtime passion for music.
Karasch, of Twin Cities, Minn. said, “I played the trumpet in school from the fourth grade, and then in high school I picked up piano, drums and guitar.”
He studied music in college, majored in percussion and received an associate’s degree.
Karasch says he taught himself how to play the harmonica on this deployment. He says it’s a way to pass time since he doesn’t have his other instruments with him.
“I got it in one of the care packages from my family,” he said. “I picked it up pretty quickly just because I have a background in music.
“I wanted to learn how to bend notes just to get that bluesy sound,” Karasch said. He spent his evenings in the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent searching the Internet for harmonica lessons.
Sometimes other Marines in his unit will ask him to play songs. Occasionally, he’ll play the Marines’ Hymn to lighten the mood, but said he usually just keeps his music to himself.
Although Karasch says enjoys playing blues music with his harmonica, he admits that he doesn’t really listen to blues. He grew up listening to classic rock.
“I’ve gotten into jazz and metal and every other type of music under the sun, especially since music school,” he said. “But the harmonica sort of has a blues history to it, so it’s really fun to try and get a blues song out of it.”
Music even led Karasch to his wife, Ashlee. He first met her at a band mate’s wedding. The keyboardist brought her as a date and introduced her to Karasch.
“He sort of tried to play matchmaker for us throughout the wedding,” Karasch said. That was Jan. 9, 2009.
“I left for boot camp Feb. 17, and we got married Dec. 30 of the same year,” he said with a smile.
Karasch, an infantryman by trade, now works in the company’s intelligence section. It’s a job he says he’s come to enjoy.
“I despised it at first, just because I signed up to be a grunt. But I’ve grown to like it,” he said. “Now I don’t know which I prefer. I like them both.”
Karasch joined the Marine Corps three years ago.
“As cliché as it sounds, I joined because I wanted to serve my country,” he said. “I just wanted to do my part, even if it’s just one contract. I actually thought I’d be a good fit for the military and possibly make a good career out of it.”
With a harmonica in hand, Karasch will continue to enjoy his music, even while forward deployed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: First Battalion, 7th Marines is a part of Regimental Combat Team 6. RCT-6 falls under 1st Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.