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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – After nearly 30 years in the military one former U.S. Army Ranger from Richmond’s Church Hill section is singing an entirely different tune. Jim O’Farrell has gone from the streets of Baghdad to sound checks in a studio.
Jim O’Farrell couldn’t be happier his days of touring are behind him.
Jim’s journey as a professional musician didn’t include cheap motels, smoky clubs and small towns.
“I started off listening to Gordon Lightfoot and Credence Clearwater Revival. My earliest memories I have a guitar in my hand,” Jim recalled.
His two plus years on the road included stops in Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad. Jim survived two harrowing, year long, tours in Iraq in 2005 and 2008.
“We ran escorts and gun truck patrols all over the country we were everywhere,” he said. “When an IED hits it just suddenly blows up.”
Each deployment Jim led dozens of young men, some just 18 years old, into battle.
“In order to be an effective leader you can’t say go get them. You have to say follow me,” Jim remembered. “The nickname for platoon sergeant is ‘platoon daddy’. It’s an affectionate term they never say to your face.”
Enormous pressure came with his job as platoon Sgt. His first deployment he was in charge of 45 soldiers. His second deployment he led 143 soldiers.
“I always appreciated that these were my soldiers, but they were someone else’s sons parents were entrusting their kids to me,” Jim said.
Jim used his instrument as an escape, behind closed doors.
“I was a platoon sergeant. So I couldn’t let the guys see the me rocking out it was not the image they needed to see”.
But that changed.
He soon found himself offering guitar guidance and lessons following dangerous missions.
“You’d feel the adrenaline pour out. It was a nice relief,” Jim said with a big smile. “It was a way to escape and disengage mentally and physically from what was going on outside the wire.”
Jim’s passion for music intensified on the battlefield. He poured his experiences onto paper.
“I wrote a lot of songs over there.”
With 28 years of military service behind him – Jim is embarking on a new mission. Jim is now leading a new group. The men of The J.O.B. otherwise known as The Jim O’Farrell Band.
“Yeah I guess I don’t look like the Army Ranger. I look more like the hippie Woodstock guy than the Ranger and that it is cool I dig it,” he said.
No matter where his music career takes him the days of his other tour dates in a war zone will never fade.
“I hope it always stays with me. It would be a shame to forget Iraq it was always an important part of me.
Jim’s musical career is taking off.
His group’s song, “Messenger” is currently sitting on the Top 40 Adult Contemporary charts nationwide. As for his military career he is passing the torch on to his sons.
One son served in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. Another son just signed up to join the United States Navy.