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Meet the veterans: Mark Murphy

UMB is fortunate to have several veterans on our team, and we’re proud to hire veterans in our local communities. This series highlights some of our associates who have served their country in the military prior to joining UMB.

Q&A with Mark Murphy, Captain, Field Artillery, United States Army

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Lancaster, Ohio, a town of approximately 40,000 people located just south of Columbus, Ohio. As much as I enjoyed Lancaster while growing up, I always knew I wanted to leave and experience more dynamic settings. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the University of Southern California (USC) where I studied film. My time at USC was entertaining, but by the end of my senior year, I had lost interest in working in Hollywood. With the assistance of one of my history professors, I secured a position teaching English for the Japanese government. I not only worked alongside Japanese, but other Americans, Canadians, Australians and Britons. When my teaching contract ended, I headed back to the United States, and immediately attempted to join the Navy, but ultimately ended up in the Army.

Why did you choose to join the military?

Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by history and international relations, so joining the military seemed like a natural extension of both these interests. Also, most of my relatives are veterans, so the military culture was never alien to me.

Give us some highlights about your military career.

After completing approximately 18 months of initial training in Georgia and Oklahoma, I was assigned to the Second Infantry Division in Camp Hovey, South Korea. I was there less than eight months when our entire brigade (approximately 4,000 personnel) was deployed to the Al-Anbar Province in western Iraq. We landed in Kuwait in August 2004, spent a few weeks training and acclimating to the oven-like temperatures, and then convoyed to neighboring Iraq. Mark Murphy Iraq

Our brigade operated out of the provincial capital Ramadi, which in the weeks after our arrival deteriorated into one of the most violent cities in the world. The artillery battery I belonged to was responsible for providing 24/7 security to a sector on the outskirts of the city. We spent several hours a day patrolling the streets and markets, frequently stopping to establish a temporary traffic checkpoint or interview locals about the situation. Some nights we would conduct raids on suspected insurgent hideouts. The first month was relatively calm, but in October the insurgent activity spiked dramatically, and we started taking a number of casualties. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), snipers and suicide bombers were the main culprits. The latter were the scariest because there is very little you can do to deter someone who is already trying to kill themselves. By the end of the tour our brigade had suffered 68 killed and several hundred wounded. Our artillery battery lost six soldiers to combat and another to suicide—plus five more that were so seriously wounded they had to be evacuated to a military hospital in Germany.

It was eerie to return to our barracks after one of our people had been killed and find all of their possessions arranged exactly how they had left them only a few hours before. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hardships endured by the residents of Ramadi. To this day, I am not sure how they managed to go about their daily lives while thousands of strangers —American troops, Iraqi insurgents, and foreign jihadists—roamed the city streets trying to kill one another in increasingly creative and destructive ways. After the tour, the Army didn’t return us to South Korea, but instead sent us to Fort Carson, located in Colorado Springs, Colo. This proved to be a much more agreeable setting than Ramadi. The following year I left the Army, and headed to Cusco, Peru to attend an intensive, Spanish language immersion school.

How did you come to be at UMB? What made you want to work here?

I was enrolled in the Executive MBA program at Washington University in St. Louis. One of my classmates, Steve Marin, had recently retired from the Air Force and secured a position at UMB. UMB had an excellent reputation in the community and the financial industry seemed to offer good opportunities. With Steve’s assistance I applied, and was lucky enough to be hired.

What about your past shaped who you are today?

My personality, behavior, beliefs and interests are largely a product of the following influences: the Midwest, East Asia, Catholic school, National Geographic, nature, libraries, Hollywood and the military. Put them all in a blender, hit “mix,” and the resulting concoction will resemble me.

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