Barrieau going from track to barracks

  • Athol's Mason Barrieau competes in the 600-meter run during the PVIAC indoor track championship during the winter at Smith College in Northampton. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • Barrieau

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2019 10:36:18 PM

Mason Barrieau went back and forth on his college decision for a long time.

The Athol High School track star had several opportuntites to continue sprinting in college. 

He even entertained the idea of continuing his football career at the collegiate level after rushing for 1,000 yards his senior season for the Red Raiders.

But another option sat idling. An option deeply rooted in his family lineage. 

“I was very indecisive,” Barrieau said. “I was weighing all my options. The more I learned about the Army, the more I thought that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Never a big fan of the classroom, Barrieau made the decision to enlist in the Army and leaves on June 18 for boot camp.

“Everything you do is so cool,” Barrieau said. “Jumping out of planes, shooting guns. Physically training and staying fit. It teaches you discipline and responsibility.”

Everything is happening very quickly for Barrieau, who will represent the Athol track and field team in state competition in the 400-meter hurdles this Saturday at Westfield State before graduation on Sunday. 

Barrieau signed up for a three-year enlistment plan and will begin his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga.

Both of Barrieau’s parents served in the military and met in Okinawa, Japan, working as military broadcasters.  

“My parents have been very supportive of anything I do,” Barrieau said. “They just tell me to put 100 percent and be really good at it.”

Shawn Barrieau and Sarah Gambrell both had parents who worked in the National Guard. 

“Sarah and I don’t really see it as a legacy,” Shawn Barrieau said. “We look at it as a new adventure. He decided on his own, I was happy he took a direction and I am proud.”

Shawn Barrieau described his son as “California cool” in his daily approach to whatever life is bringing in his direction.

“I am not sure how the California cool will fly with drill instructors,” Shawn Barrieau said. “He will have to tough it out. But when he puts his mind to something he gets it.” 

Barrieau’s military role could include combative situations. 

“He could get killed in a dorm room,” Shawn Barrieau said. “I would rather have him somewhere where people are trained to look out for you.”

Some of Barrieau’s friends reacted with concern about his enlistment.

“They were a little taken aback,” Barrieau said. “They think as soon you say ‘military,’ you are going to Afghanistan fighting people. There are a lot of non-combative roles in the military. But they are happy I am doing what I want to do.”

Barrieau’s selected occupation is that of a cavalry scout. According to, a cavalry scout is responsible for being the eyes and ears of the commander during battle.

Cavalry scouts engage the enemy on the battlefield and give reports on enemy activities and direct the usage of weapons systems to the location.

“The occupation I picked is a combat role,” Barrieau said. “I am okay with that. That’s definitely a possibility. I am very excited to start.”

At the end of Barrieau’s enlistment plan in 2022, there would be another decision to make: either make the Army his career or use the Army to help fund a college education to become a police officer.

Barrieau has an interest in eventually becoming a S.W.A.T team member in a big city.

The decision to possibly end his organized athletic career wasn’t a difficult one.

“At this point, it’s not that important to me,” Barrieau said. “It’s just a thing that I did. I am okay with that.”

With his time at Athol coming to a close, there are memories that Barrieau will take with him in his travels. 

“I don’t have sadness about graduating,” Barrieau said. “I just look back at the good times. Listening to Phil Collins in the locker room freshman year. On the track bus, messing around with D.J. (Dennis St. Jean).”

Another memory Barrieau shared was the positive feeling of seeing somebody else succeed.

“Watching someone finish a race and get a PR,” Barrieau said. “I think of all that. But I am excited to start something new with completely new people in a new area.”

Depending on how Barrieau does this Saturday, his track and field career could extend another week for Athol.

If he does well enough he could qualify for New England competition, to add to the memories, with the Red Raiders.

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