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Face of Defense: Navy Doctor Brings Dedication to Duty, Marathon Running

By Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Samir Glenn-Roundtree 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

DEPLOYED AT SEA, May 3, 2017 — Dr. Joshua Bautz, 34, is a medical physician and endurance runner. In both endeavors he has sacrificed large sums of time and effort, overcoming personal hardships and finding the will to persevere in the face of great challenges. If that isn't enough, he is also a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Bautz is one of the medical officers assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, a Marine Corps command, as part of the shock trauma platoon. As an emergency medical physician, he is usually simply referred to as “Doc” by Marines and sailors.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Bautz received his baccalaureate degree in engineering from the University of Maryland. He attained his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and completed his residency at Vanderbilt University, before attending Navy Officer Development School in Newport, Rhode Island, and receiving orders to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Experienced Runner

Bautz has a seemingly intimate relationship with running. He has already participated in seven full marathons, three full Iron Man races along with a handful of other endurance runs. Still, there’s one race in particular he had his heart set on running.

“I think for any runner Boston is always the goal” Bautz said. “It’s the thing you strive for and want to do.”

Last October in Chicago was his third time running a Boston Marathon qualifier, which he says was his fastest.

“I was pretty stoked to finally actually get to run it because I have yet to be able to run Boston,” Bautz said. “Too many things come up.”

But shortly after receiving his official notification of acceptance from the Boston Athletic Association, 'Doc' Bautz received a different notification: his unit would be deploying as part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Surprisingly, with only seven months of active duty service under his belt, this isn’t the first race he has missed a race due to his military obligations.

Deployments

In October last year during the 24th MEU's pre-deployment training, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, causing massive devastation to a country that had not fully recovered from an earthquake in 2010. The 24th MEU was immediately ordered to deploy within 48 hours to assist with humanitarian efforts. Bautz deployed with them.

“I was planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year but we deployed to Haiti,” Bautz said. “We got back a couple days beforehand and it just wasn’t really the right time.”

In February, the 24th MEU deployed with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group aboard USS Bataan, USS Mesa Verde and USS Carter Hall and are currently supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in European and Middle Eastern areas of operation.

Bautz, however, wasn’t willing to throw in the towel by letting a deployment stop him twice.

“I got a spot to run it this year before I found out I was deploying, so I decided I was just going to run it, in spirit, on the ship if the operational tempo allowed for that,” he said.

For Bautz, this is his first deployment with his first active duty unit and it will also be the first time in his running career that he will attempt to run a marathon at sea. Due to the limited amount of space, the only option he had was to attempt to run the entire race on a treadmill, a feat not without its own set of unique challenges.

Keeping Fit

The first challenge: the equipment. Each treadmill is set to automatically stop at 60 minutes. This prevents personnel from hogging a machine, but it also reduces wear and tear. Running a marathon, however, requires more than just 60 minutes.

Having already received the approval of the ship’s executive officer, his plan is to transition to an open treadmill once the time expires on his. Finding an available treadmill shouldn’t be too difficult as both Navy and Marine Officers have volunteered to run with him for support.

Replicating the actual course however is virtually impossible.

“The actual Boston Marathon is a net downhill course, but the ship is so variable,” Bautz said. “I’m going to start with the treadmill flat and see how it goes from there. Typically, I wind up setting the treadmill to a slight incline because with every wave and every time the ship moves you’re either going uphill or downhill.”

Bautz says his dedication to military service and his passion for running have quite a few parallels. Perhaps the one thing that stands out to him the most is how both require a great deal of endurance.

“I think the two go hand-in-hand,” Bautz said. “If something were to happen and we went ashore to do what I was trained to do, you’re talking about a scenario where you’re going to be up for a lot of hours, going from one patient to the next, and you can’t afford to get tired.”

Meeting the Challenge

As with his decision to join the Navy, it’s a challenge that he takes on with open arms.

“I think there’s something cool about taking a goal that seems impossible from a distance, and little by little chipping away at that goal,” Bautz said.

It’s not completely his internal drive that keeps him going. He draws a lot of support from his family. He chuckles when he recounts telling his mother and fiancé of his decision to run despite being deployed.

“They laughed,” Bautz said. “I don’t think they were overly surprised. They were happy that I had a goal.”

Bautz already has plans to run in the Boston Marathon next year.

“Boston’s pretty cool and they’re very supportive of the military,” Bautz said.

When he emailed them after finding out he would be deploying, to tell them he would be unable to run this year, the athletic association responded by deferring his current qualifying time for next year’s marathon, where Bautz is hopeful that he’ll get a spot and an opportunity run it.

Pushing Himself

He remains resolute in pursuit of his aspiration, even though he is acutely aware that the Boston Marathon will push him in ways he has yet to experience.

“When you show up on that day with a little bit of a question as to whether you can really do it, and then stand on the other side having done it, you prove to yourself that you can do things if you push hard enough,” Bautz said. “I think that’s a powerful message that people need to tell themselves more often.”

He is especially appreciative of the outpour of love and support that his mother, family and his fiancé, Grace, have provided back home where he is most certainly missed.