Story and photo by Spc. William A. Joeckel, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Sgt. Marcus Chatman, a distribution squad leader with Company F, 1st “Vanguard” Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center and a Detroit native, has consistently lived a life of service to the United States in one way or another.
From serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, being a police officer in his hometown of Detroit, to deploying twice with the Vanguard Battalion to Iraq, Chatman has worked a variety of jobs that have not always been the safest. However, he is determined to continue his service to his country.
“I have always been employed in a job that had an ‘us versus them’ mentality,” said Chatman. “I never had what civilians call a ‘normal’ job.”
Chatman joined the Marines in 1992 as a maintenance management specialist. Upon enlisting in the Marines, he was sent to El Toro, Calif., for three years. His first deployment as a service member came in 1994 during Operation Vigilant Warrior to Saudi Arabia. He continued his service in the Marine Corps until 1999 when he left and went back to his home city of Detroit.
In 2000, Chatman joined the Detroit Police Department and, due to his military background, was assigned to one of the most unruly precincts in the city.
“They put me in the worst precinct on the midnight shift because I was a Marine,” he said. “My first form of combat happened in the city of Detroit, not while in the military. All I had was my pistol and my partner—I didn’t have air support, protection, or a team to back me up like I do today in the Army.”
Chatman worked as a Detroit police officer for three years before leaving, because he didn’t like the direction the city was going with the police department and he missed being a Marine. He then went back to the Marine Corps in the same job that he previously held.
He stayed in the Marines for another four years before deciding to go back to the Detroit police department. After spending a year back in the same precinct as a police officer, Chatman then joined the Army.
“I had a friend who always talked about the Army, so I gave it a shot,” he said. “I have never been scared to do what I wanted to do. If I wasn’t working somewhere that I liked, I’d change it.”
Enlisting as a motor transport operator at the age of 36, Chatman was sent to Company F, of the Vanguard Battalion in November 2008. He was then deployed to Iraq in 2009 with the unit, and was awarded the Combat Action Badge when a rocket-propelled grenade was launched at his vehicle.
Chatman is now serving in his second deployment to Iraq with the Vanguards as a squad leader in the ammunition section. He said he enjoys being a member of the unit because he doesn’t feel held back from being an effective leader.
“This unit is the first and only Army unit that I’ve been to,” he said. “The leadership in this unit is so squared away and hardcore, I benefit from being a part of this team.”
His Soldiers have a great respect for him. Cpl. Lonnie Worley, a petroleum supply specialist with Company F and a Seneca, S.C., native, said that Chatman is hard to describe since he is so unique.
“Sgt. Chatman has stories for everything,” Worley said. “He’s very competitive in that he wants his squad to be the best at what they do.”
Pfc. Christopher Rivera, a member of Chatman’s squad, and a Waipahu, Hawaii, native, said that working with Chatman makes it pleasurable to come to work due to his sense of humor and dedication to his Soldiers.
“He always keeps us going through our days with his funny sense of humor, but also keeps pushing us to be the best we can be,” said Rivera.
Chatman attributes his success in being a leader to his unique life experience.
“Being an older NCO makes it is easy to communicate—I have seen a lot of stuff,” he said. “It is important to find your Soldiers’ motivation and then exploit that to help them maximize their potential. Troops will follow you if you are willing to break a sweat with them.”
Chatman has been serving in the military for one-third of his life, and is planning on continuing his career in the Army. “I figure that I’ll be working until I’m 100 anyways,” he said. “You have to love what you are doing or you won’t be an effective leader.”