MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- A 6' 3" tall staff sergeant gestured to a room off to the side of his workspace where he oversees incoming and outgoing aircraft here. Anthony Bynum is fairly new to the Lowcountry, and with only five months on station, he has already experienced one of the best things Beaufort has to offer – the air show.
“It is slow here, but I think this is what I needed – a break,” Bynum said of his time in Beaufort thus far. “I have been able to focus more on my family and bettering myself. Without the constant deployments and the long hours, I find myself bouncing off the walls trying to find something to do. I’ve been able to cool it out and mentor the younger Marines and look out for their well-being.”
Bynum is a native of Vernon, Ala., a town so small it only has two traffic lights, and its claim to fame is singer/songwriter Dan Penn.
Since joining he has seen everything from the sand of Iraq to the Swiss Alps.
Today he takes a break from mentoring and leading to discuss with The Jet Stream staff how he made it to where he is now, and how Marine Security Guard duty played a major role in that.
Q: Why did you take the path you chose to take? Why the military occupational specialty, why the Marine Corps?
A: From what I’ve seen in the commercials and what my family was telling me, I came to the conclusion that it was the most challenging. I walked into the recruiting office and told my recruiter I want to be a grunt.
I went in open contract and ended up in the aviation operation specialist field.
Q: After that, what were your expectations going into the MOS field?
A: I didn’t know what to expect. I remember checking in and my staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge having high hopes. He said to me, “I predict that within a year you’ll be the squadron’s operations chief.”
Sure enough, what he said was correct.
Q: How did that happen?
A: Through some extenuating circumstances, our senior corporal couldn’t make our deployment to Iraq. It was me, a senior lance corporal, two new Marines from the school house and a lance corporal who got attached to us. I became our squadron’s operations chief at that point.
Q: Sounds exciting.
A: It was, but after another deployment to Afghanistan, things were starting to get old.
Q: You mentioned before that you weren’t exactly planning to retire, so what was your mindset when going to the career planner? Were you leaning towards getting out?
A: Because I sat behind a desk for so long, I wanted to try something else. I looked into lateral moving into another MOS field, but because my current MOS was in a critical status, I wasn’t able to. That’s when the career planner gave me some information about [Marine security guard] duty.
He showed me all the good stuff, the mansions, cooks, drivers, you know.
Q: That sounds nice.
A: Yeah, and besides being a grunt, MSG was another way to be a Marine.
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: The Marines out there are in charge of guarding the American citizens in these different countries. They look to us to protect them from whatever attacks may happen. As a matter of fact, at my first post in Saudi Arabia, our embassy was attacked almost as soon as I got there. Everything I learned in training kicked in.
Q: Saudi Arabia? That puts you in the thick of things, considering the war, climate and region. What was that like?
A: Actually, Saudi Arabia was supposedly my ‘bad post.’ Because of the threat level, things were very strict out there, but I found a positive in it. I was able to take some online classes and save money. I was able to take that outlook and apply it to the rest of my posts and my primary MOS.
Q: Once you were back at a squadron, how did you apply the positive outlook to your everyday job?
A: I no longer looked at my MOS as a boring desk job, but I looked at all the good I could be doing in my role. While on MSG duty, I was meritoriously promoted to staff sergeant and from there, I went to Okinawa where I served in a mentoring role, making sure my Marines were taken care of – personally and professionally.
That positive thinking enabled me to find the perks in my duties no matter where I was.
Q: What advice would you give Marines who may be uncertain about the direction they want to take with their military career as you were?
A: Try something new. There are plenty of opportunities in the Marine Corps to try your hand at something else. Don’t let one experience ruin the whole Corps for you. I’m coming up on my 11 year anniversary and trying to get things together for my warrant officer package, both of which I didn’t think I would be doing [back then].
Bynum is a perfect example of how not all things go as planned. One experience after the other, he has taken the positives and applied them to his duties. Those positives might lead him into a class filled with like minded Marines looking to become experts in their respective MOS fields, and his impact on the Marine Corps could then become even wider.