A native of Beaumont, Texas, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Carlson graduated from the University of Southern California with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing in 1993. He spent the next seven years working as a reporter and editor in Los Angeles, Singapore, and Hong Kong. His overseas experiences awakened a desire to give back to the United States, and he entered Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in 2000 and commissioned as a second lieutenant in December.
From 2000-2004, he served as Group Adjutant, Platoon Commander, and Training Officer with 1st Stinger Battery, Marine Air Control Group 18, in Okinawa, Japan.
In 2005, he joined a reserve artillery unit, 1st Battalion, 14th Marines, and deployed to Iraq in 2006-2007 as a Platoon Commander in charge of the Regional Detention Facility in Fallujah, supporting 5th Marine Regiment. His Marines processed 1,200 detainees during a seven-month period with zero escapes and no incidents of detainee abuse.
Returning to active duty in 2008, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson began his first tour with 3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, where he served as Adjutant and Commanding Officer, Battery A. He and his Marines deployed in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2010.
The Marines of Battery A provided external base security to the north of the Bastion-Leatherneck-Shorabak Complex and conducted all Main Entry Point vehicle searches and seizures. They processed more than 45,000 vehicles during the seven-month period and executed more than 500 mounted patrols across 900 square kilometers.
From 2011-2013, he completed a master's degree in Regional Security Studies with a focus on Southeast Asia at the Naval Postgraduate School, as well as langauge training at the Defense Lanaguage Institute. Armed with basic Indonesian, he and his family decamped to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Lieutenant Colonel Carlson worked as a Foreign Area Officer from 2013-2014. In February 2014, partnered with a Russian journalist, he walked 100 miles through the jungles of Borneo to survey the success rates of rainforest conservation projects.
He returned for a second tour at 3d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion in 2014, where he served as the Executive Officer.
From 2015-2017, he served as the Logistics Officer and Marine Air Control Group 38 Detachment Officer-in-Charge with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) on the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. His Marines supported contingency operations in Yemen, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea.
Since 2017, he has served Marine Air Control Group 38 as its Assistant Operations Officer, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer.