An unlikely Marine duet

Cpl. Todd Michalek Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

USS NEW YORK, At Sea – The sound of two guitars, woven together seamlessly with a smooth baritone voice, echoes through the darkened passageways of the USS New York. But it’s not a recording coming out of a cheap speaker; it’s two Marines creating music in the late evening hours. Their music has that rare quality that makes people stop and listen. And it comes from an unlikely pair.Marines

First Sgt. Allen Allred, the company first sergeant for Bravo Company, the Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point kind of guy. He’s the type of Marine you think of when you ask yourself “what does a Marine look like?” His impeccable uniform and posture reflect the tone of a drill instructor eying a recruit in a 1970s recruiting poster adorned with the words “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” His razor-sharp blue eyes and use of words can cut you to the core and make you re-think every bad decision you’ve ever made.

But Allred is also a musician. A drummer by trade, he picked up the guitar before his current deployment with the 24th MEU — he says his inspiration for making music is his wife. But to make his musical vision come true, he sought the help of another musician — Sgt. Nicolas Rublein.

Rublein, a Cyber Network Operator also with the BLT, is unassuming, easygoing, sincere and welcoming. He takes a lot of pride in his job and says he’s been working with computers for as long as he can remember, which is about as long as he’s been involved with music.

“I auditioned for the elite choir in my high school, and I went in there thinking I was hot stuff,” said Rublein. “I completely bombed the audition and had to sing in general choir for a year. I made it the next year, and that’s really where the musical bug bit.”

When he was not busy with choir or other school work, Rublein was playing a guitar his stepfather gave him. His stepfather taught him a few chords, and Rublein took it from there. He recorded a solo album, frequented open mic nights, and played with a few bands.

With a music education in his head and a guitar on his back, it’s not uncommon to see Rublein walking around the streets of whatever country the New York visits. That’s how 1st Sgt. Allred noticed him.

“I met Sgt. Rublein when I was watching people leave for liberty in Israel. He had a guitar and it sparked my interest,” Allred said. “Then I saw him play at open mic night [on the ship] and realized he was an actual musician who could help me get to the next level.”

Allred reached out to Rublein to ask for help writing some songs inspired by his wife.

“Playing the guitar has been a release of emotions for me. I’m not an [expressive] guy, but when I play the guitar it helps me tap into my feelings for my wife and express how much she means to me. Sgt. Rublein has helped me figure out where to go,” said Allred.

When it comes to music, the role of “leader” and “follower” is reversed. Allred, three ranks senior to Rublein, is the one asking for guidance.

“There’s an interesting dynamic between us,” said Rublein. “He’s very accommodating and he reveals things about himself through his music — things I would not ordinarily see.”

“In the uniform, Marines see one thing,” added Allred. “My rank, the diamond on my collar. They don’t see anything else — I’m one-dimensional to them. When people see me smiling when they’re listening to us play music, it lets them know that I’m human too.”

Each Marine has his personal reasons for creating music, but Allred and Rublein leave their egos at the door and complement one another. There’s no mistaking genuine music — perhaps that’s why so many people stop and listen.

The 24th MEU is embarked on the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

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