PEKIN — When he’s not working his second job, Sgt. Chuck Barth handles the Pekin Police Department officers who patrol the city’s streets at night.
He’s permitted a second job because of its nature. It sounds relatively simple in concept.
Advance to a battlefield’s front, then coordinate the attack with fighter jets and ground troops.
“When the bad guys attack, the battlefield is mine,” said Barth, a U.S. Air Force master sergeant who served three deployments in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard’s 182nd Tactical Wing.
“There are very few people who do what I do, maybe a couple hundred in the world” with his 20 years of experience, Barth said.
He now teaches his skills as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO-based response in Europe’s Baltic nations to tensions raised by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea area in 2014 and intrusions since then into that nation.
Barth, 45, will leave soon for that job, “the 15th time in the last two or three years” that he’s traveled for one to three weeks to Latvia to train field battle coordinators from virtually every nation in the NATO pact.
“It’s kind of scary, since those guys don’t work with each other” on a regular basis “or talk with each other” through a common language, he said.
Barth has balanced police and military service for 26 years, including 22 with the Pekin department. After two years in Afghanistan in 2002-2003, at the height of the nation’s battle against terrorist groups there, he returned in 2010 for six more months.
By then, “I think the mountains got higher,” he joked. “I don’t have a desire to climb anymore mountains.”
A Pekin-area native, his desire to continue serving both his hometown and nation remains strong.
“I do for the city what I can and do for the nation when I can,” he said of the Air Force duties that take him across or out of the nation for about three months each year.
Barth, now attached as a Forward Air Control Instructor to the Air Force Military Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan, said he and “a few other guys” from the Peoria-based 182nd wing started Operation Northern Strike several years ago. The air-to-ground control exercise has grown into “the largest (Air) National Guard exercise in the nation and now involves all (military) branches,” he said.
While Barth may not be ready to step down from his double career anytime soon, he and his wife Joni, an administrative nurse at Pekin Hospital, are about to send the youngest of their three children flying from the nest – literally.
Nicholas, 25, has entered his second tour of duty with the Air Force, with plans to fly fighter jets.
Madelyn, 19, will start classes next fall at the University of Wyoming, but has already joined that state’s Air National Guard after graduating from basic training.
Allison, 17, “will probably do the same thing” as her sister, starting at the same university where she’s just been accepted, Barth said.
“I didn’t push them” into the Air Force, he said. “I think they have a soft spot for it. They saw how its treated me” through National Guard service.
That outlet has allowed Barth to help keep both his country and his hometown safe.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin