It was a hot day at Camp Lejeune as a Marine Special Warfare Company conducted part of its deployment readiness exercise. In the distance, the Marine Raiders perform an equipment check as they prepare for the next segment of their training. In the foreground sat Captain Charles J. Bauman and to his left, Captain Michael Reynolds, as they deftly maneuvered their choice of drawing tools over their sketchbooks, illustrating the story unfolding right in front of them. .
Capt. Charles Baumann, a designated combat artist and logistics officer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, and Capt. Michael Reynolds, ordnance officer with Marine Forces Special Warfare Command, document an exercise peaking before deployment while attached to a Marine Special Operations Company, June 13-16, 2022.
“The purpose of [Marine Corps Combat Art Program] is to document Marine Corps operations via illustrations for historical documentation,” Baumann explained. “I hope to contribute to collections of works archived in the [National Museum of the Marine Corps] and provide a slightly different perspective for viewing the recorded history of the Marine Corps. I hope that in 10, 20, 50 years my artwork can be used to help tell the story of the Corps while I was in service.
“The purpose of the Marine Corps Combat Art Program is to document Marine Corps operations via illustrations for historical documentation.” Captain Charles Baumann, Designated Combat Artist and Logistics Officer
Baumann, initially, was unaware of the Marine Corps combat art program. Once he learned about the program, he contacted retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael D. Fay, who was the last reserve combat artist activated during the early years of the Iraq War, who l was then introduced to retired Col. Craig H. Streeter, also a combat artist. Streeter then introduced Baumann to NMMC’s director, deputy director, and art curator, who encouraged him to submit a portfolio of artwork. They deemed Baumann’s artwork qualified enough to put him on the curriculum, and he attained the free military occupational specialty of combat artist.
Combat Artist is a free military occupational specialty that can be completed by any Marine, regardless of primary MOS, in addition to their regular duties. They illustrate military operations on behalf of Marine Corps historical collection efforts to the extent that their timeline permits and are intended to capture military operations from an organic perspective.
“Once I realized that I could combine my passion [and] talent for art and my calling to serve in the USMC, I was immediately inspired to see my military experience as a way to be illustrated,” said Baumann. “My initial work which was submitted as a portfolio was praised by people I respected and admired as seasoned artists, which had a huge impact on my self-confidence and determination to develop my skills. “
Reynolds is currently applying to join Baumann as a combat artist for the Marine Corps Combat Art Program.
“I can directly attribute my desire to become a combat artist to the influence of Marine Corps combat artists like Captain Baumann and former Staff Sgt. Elize Mcelvey,” Reynolds said. “Just like in marksmanship, if you have the fundamental understanding of what is supposed to happen and you have the ability to receive and grow from constructive criticism, you can constantly improve with more practical application. “
“Just like in marksmanship, if you have the fundamental understanding of what is supposed to happen and you have the ability to receive and grow from constructive criticism, you can constantly improve with more practical application. “ Captain Michael Reynolds, Ammunition Officer
Baumann was trained early on by Fay, Streeter, and Richard Johnson, a civilian field illustrator, to draw upon observation and life-to-life experiences. Once he understood the concept of illustration by direct observation, new opportunities presented themselves with the confidence to draw what he observed in person. He now keeps a sketchbook and a camera handy for any opportunity that might come up and deserve illustrating.
“I hope my art is able to connect with the viewer in an emotional and personal way,” Baumann said. “I want my civilian audience to understand the details of what it means to serve in the military. I feel like I can bring an insider’s perspective both as an illustrator and an active duty member.
Reynolds shares what he hopes to accomplish with his art.
“When I look at artwork by former Marine Corps combat artists like retired Chief Warrant Officer Mike Fay, I’m drawn back into the scene I’m looking at,” Reynolds said. “I remember the smell of JP8, the feeling of moon dust under my boots and the sounds of the humvee engine rumbling in the distance. It is this level of connection that I must achieve in the hope that a day someone can remember and connect with what I have illustrated to tell a story using non-verbal communication.
The NMMC is currently taking applications from artistically talented Marines to serve as combat artists. For more information on the program and how to apply, see MARADMIN 267/22.