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Pipes Playing in Afghanistan

Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd)

Playing the bagpipes outside of his office gives Patrick J. Carroll, the governance and cultural advisor for I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) Civil Affairs Group, a way to break away from his large workload. Working with the Civil Affairs Group is a large task as the rebuilding of Afghanistan is pushed more and more with the increased amount of forces brought to the area by I MEF (FWD).

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - 04.21.2010 From remembering people from the past to relaxation and even shaping the war atmosphere, one man has found a way to use bagpipes to fulfill many different needs.

Patrick J. Carroll, the governance and cultural advisor for the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) Civil Affairs Group, plays the bagpipes for many different reasons, and brings its tunes to all different parts of the world.

Through his experiences he has found something that brings back memories, allows him to give back to his brothers in the Corps and keeps him working toward something better as he immerses himself into learning new songs and other types of bagpipes.

"Most people say they can't believe that I bring it with me, but once you remove the bass drum you can actually fit it in a normal-size gun case," said Carroll. "It fits conveniently in a seabag, so if I can take a seabag somewhere, I can take the pipes with me, and I pretty much take them everywhere I go."

Carroll retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel in September 2009 and has continued working as a civilian contractor. He began as an infantry officer but was also a middle eastern foreign area officer, helping him with the job he is doing working with the civil affairs group as a contractor.

"I went to certain schooling during my career to become an expert on the history, politics, language and culture of the countries that fall within the Central Command," said Carroll.

Speaking mainly Arabic, Carroll also knows some Pashto and farsi after studying the Middle East for over 17 years.

The bagpipes are not an instrument most people would think to pick up. Carroll had a little more motivation than just the personal drive he has had throughout life.

"At the same time I thought about playing the pipes, I ran into the father of a Marine who was playing bagpipes at a dining out event, and asked him if it was difficult to play it. He not only encouraged me to play, but gave me some advice on how to get started," said Carroll. "My father also encouraged it. He loved the pipes. He didn't play, but he played the music a lot."

After receiving the advice Carroll bought a chanter and a book tutor to begin practicing.

Carroll had another reason for continuing to put in the work to play and to take them everywhere possible.

"My mom passed away about the time I picked it up," said Carroll. "My mother loved Ireland, she had been to Ireland numerous times. My dad went to school in Ireland for a portion of his youth and it was kind of a way to remember her. That makes it easy because you always want to play it and think of your parents."

As with any Marine, the sense of brotherhood has never left Carroll, and being around the Corps has allowed him to continue helping fellow Marines.

"I actually play for any Marine who wants me to play. I'll play at the drop of a hat. So I play at retirements, and unfortunately I play at memorial ceremonies and funerals," said Carroll. "I'm very honored to play for Marines. I do it because I never learned to do it for money. It was simply for the joy of the music and I don't do it only for Marines, but of course I would do anything for my brother Marines."

Carroll feels the sound of bagpipes is something most service members like to hear played while they are deployed.

"I also play it because it is an instrument that combines a martial sense to it, a war-like presence, but also has a soothing side at the same time," said Carroll. "I think that the Marines, any servicemen, even if they are not Irish or Scottish like the martial aspect of the pipes, so I think it goes well with the atmosphere."

Just as many Marines and other servicemembers find it relaxing to hear him play, it also allows him to break away from the difficult work that he performs daily basis as himself and the Marines from the civil affairs group help the people of Afghanistan have a better way of life.

"You need something to completely break free, some type of hobby that completely takes you away," said Carroll.

Carroll will continue to play while he finishes out his six months working with the civil affairs group, and when he returns home to Virginia, where he is part of a band called the Northern Virginia Firefighters Emerald Society Pipe Band.

"I would encourage anyone to start playing. The only regret that I've had in life so far is not starting to play a musical instrument earlier," said Carroll.

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