‘Through the Ranks,’ is a recurring commentary about a day in the life of a deployed Marine from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Each commentary will highlight an individual’s personal experience through the perspective of his rank.
A soft pink-hued glow highlights Sgt. Garrett Farris’ eyebrows, nose, cheeks and chin as he lies in his cot with a laptop resting on his stomach. On the screen, an animated horned beast falls in love with an innocent beauty.
Farris is watching a Disney movie before calling it a night. His interest is drawn to the screen, but his mind is on the other side of the planet, where his two children watch Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast every night before going to bed.
This is the 26-year-old’s fourth deployment. He has been to Iraq twice and sailed around the Pacific Ocean with a Marine Expeditionary Unit. He has ‘been there, done that’ so to speak, but this time is different.
His girls are three and one years old, and he thinks of them everyday.
“Whenever I think about my kids I just go hide in a corner and watch Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin or whatever,” Farris said. “It’s something intimate between me and my kids. Something (specific) that ties me to home, because it’s what I would be doing if I was at home — sitting on the couch, watching a movie with my kids.”
Patrolling everyday takes his mind off not being in the presence of his children. The squad Farris leads doesn’t take the place of his family, but they provide him a brotherhood.
“Imagine taking nine different guys with all different backgrounds and getting them to focus on the same thing for seven straight months — and be completely and totally unwilling to fail in anything we do — and that’s the best way to explain it out here,” Farris said. “As far as the bond between us, I won’t even try to explain. I don’t think it is feasible.”
The blue-eyed, Castroville, Texas, native is a section leader for Weapons Company. Taller than any of his Marines, with a freckled face hinting at his Irish background, Farris is the obvious leader of his squad. His Marines go to him from answers about infantry skills to help with personal issues. With an air of confidence not unlike an older brother playing backyard football with his siblings, Farris leads his Marines.
However, the relationship is dynamic. Farris also draws on his Marines for support and believes their teamwork and unvarying mindset makes his squad successful.
“Brothers would be the best way to explain it,” Farris said. “I rely on them just as much as they rely on me. You never really look for the relationships when you go into a deployment, but they are always there when you leave.”
The relationship between Farris and his Marines is similar to the one between him and his superiors; however, sergeants are expected to ask fewer questions. They are shouldered with responsibility for their Marines successes and failures, and are generally the most experienced Marines who still do mostly hands-on work.
His deployment experience sets him up to be a successful leader. The day-to-day patrol and post schedule provides a set routine for Farris to mentor his junior Marines. He takes care of them like a big brother, being attentive to there needs but strict enough so they know their boundaries.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Farris is the moral leader of his Marines.
“I tell them to never give up their own ethics,” Farris said. “Every deployment I’ve done, I have always left being able to say there isn’t a story … that I couldn’t tell my grandma … And, if I started to veer left or right from what needed to get done, I think (my Marines) would put me in check just as quick as I would them. We are mutually supportive of each other and know the role of what we need to do.”
“Leading Marines is the biggest honor in the world,” Farris added. “Somebody saw fit to allow me to possibly lead Marines into combat. That’s just an amazing privilege, because the Marines in charge of me and the families of the Marines I lead believe in me to do the right thing and to do my absolute best to bring them home.”
Despite Farris’ love for the Marine Corps, he is considering a change of career. This is his fourth deployment, and now that he has kids, his perspective is changing. He enjoys the privilege of leading Marines, but his heart belongs to his family.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I have done in the Marine Corps,” Farris said. “Having kids changed my priorities a little bit. What I enjoy kind of makes life a little more difficult with the moving and deployments, but we’ll see where it goes. I am still on the fence.”
For now, Farris says he will concentrate on the present: patrolling and taking care of his Marines in the Afghan desert. And when pines for home, he’ll boot up his laptop to watch a Disney movie, imagining he’s with his children.
Farris’ responsibilities don’t end with his Marines; he also mentors a squad of Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Farris’ attitude toward his foreign brothers-in-arms doesn’t differ from that of his Marines. He provides a steady advisory to teach the soldiers how to operate but also a strict hand to instill a military discipline needed so the ANA squad can operate on their own.
“They are basically the reason why we are here right now, is to train them and to get them able to do things on their own and we just have to keep pushing for the final end state that’s needed,” Farris said.
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