Clinton Carter knows all about teamwork.
He learned many of those lessons in life-threatening situations, not on a football field.
Carter, a defensive lineman on the Bakersfield College football team, served four years in the U.S. Army, including a year behind a high-powered machine gun in Afghanistan.
Safe to say, he brings a different type of experience to the Renegades, who visit Allan Hancock College today.
At 23, he is the second oldest BC player. Teammates jokingly call him "gramps," but his military service was deadly serious.
Carter and his fellow soldiers had many humanitarian responsibilities. His platoon would also go out on patrol and exchange fire with the enemy.
"Our battalion was about 2,000 soldiers," Carter said. "We operated at a platoon and company level most of the time, 30-35 guys."
During combat, "we lost a couple of guys," he said. "I lost a really good friend of mine, who was from Flagstaff (Ariz.)."
He said his duty was serving as an assistant gunner on the M240 gas-powered machine gun that could fire 800-900 rounds a minute.
"It was a pretty big weapon, a beast," Carter said.
As for details on his experience behind the high-powered weapon in dangerous situations: “That’s stuff I’d rather not talk about,” he said.
Carter said being in combat has similarities to going head-to-head with an opposing offensive lineman.
“This is a fun war we play here,” Carter said. “But you have to have the same mentality as when you’re in combat. Of course it’s not life-and-death. But you have to get into the mindset that it’s me or them.”
BC (6-2) will travel to Santa Maria’s Righetti High today to face Hancock (5-3) in a 4 p.m. game.
Carter had a strong game last week in BC’s 21-14 win over Cerritos, contributing 11⁄2 sacks, two tackles for loss and a blocked extra point.
Carter said he joined the Army out of high school because he wasn’t ready for college.
“I knew growing up I wanted to join the service,” Carter said. “I thought I would go to college first. I was supposed to come up here and play in 2007, but I was too young. I knew I wouldn’t take it serious. I wouldn’t take school serious. It would have been a waste of time.
“I figured the military would give me the resources to grow up and kind of give me some intangible tools I could use later on in life. It definitely worked.”
Carter enlisted in the Army six days after graduating from Centennial High in 2007.
He’s now 6-foot-3 and about 235 pounds. Then, he weighed 260.
“I was a pudgy 260,” Carter said with a laugh, quickly adding that he toned down quickly during basic training.
“We ran every day, probably 3-5 miles a every day and eating small meals,” he said.”It was tough, but it was something you got used to.”
After basic training he was assigned to the 10th Mountain (Infantry) Division in Fort Drum, located 60 miles north of Syracuse in northern New York state.
That was a big change from Bakersfield, he said.
“There would be 6-8 feet of snow on the ground and zero degrees,” Carter said. “I’d much rather have the heat.”
The Army experience was mostly positive, Carter said.
“The most rewarding thing is being able to look back and being able to say and be proud of what I’ve done with my life, and the changes I’ve help make with the Afghani people. And making friends with my brothers, the guys I fought with.”
Carter hesitated and measured his words when asked if the U.S. should have troops in the Middle East.
“That one’s tough,” he said. “Me personally, having been there and interacting with the people, they have no idea how good we have it.
“They’re not educated. They plow their own fields. They have no machines. And they live in mud buildings.
“We’re out there trying to educate them, trying to help them, saying things like, ‘You can have better lifestyles. You don’t have to go away from your religious beliefs or anything like that.’
“We are definitely doing good things with the people over there. Now is it worth the brothers and sisters we’re losing over there or all of the money we’re spending? I don’t know. That’s not my call.
“But us being over there has positively impacted a lot of people.”
BC coach Jeff Chudy said Carter’s influence on this year’s Renegades is special.
“He’s really humbled a lot of us with his attitude,” Chudy said. “For him, every day is a great day. You never see him with his lip hanging down. He’s such an optimistic guy.
“He’s been so good for us as coaches. He’s a breath of fresh air. And he’s a great teammate.”
Chudy said many members of his coaching say this year’s team has great chemistry.
“They have mentioned this is one of the closest groups we’ve had in a long time here at Bakersfield College,” Chudy said. “He has a lot to do with that. I know he does.”