Do Marine Infantry Officers See Combat

Do Marine Infantry Officers See Combat – I left the Marine Corps in May. I washed the dust of three continents off my armor and watched the memories disappear into the sewers and dirt, trying to make sense of it all. I served as an infantryman and scout in the Marine Corps for over four years and never did the job I was cut out for. I have been abroad twice and did not enter the combat zone. I’ve never shot in anger, and I don’t know what it’s like to shoot at me other than long range holes.

In 2009, I applied to become an officer in the Marines because I wanted to go to war. At the time, Marines were massing in Afghanistan, pouring into southern Helmand province. I watched the lieutenants lead their men through the wadis on TV, and I wanted to be like them. I was 18 years old and I had to prove something to myself and to other people and the corps thought this was the right way to do it. Military service seemed like an important part of the deal, a way to “see the elephant” and learn about the world. As Nathaniel Feek wrote in his One Bullet Away. In the book The Making of a Marine Officer. “I wanted to go on a great adventure, prove myself…wear armor and slay dragons.” At that time, I did not understand how expensive such knowledge was.

Do Marine Infantry Officers See Combat

The battle stories of the global war on terror are already well known. More obscure are the non-war stories, the often disturbing experiences of those who recently served in the interwar period. We sailed across the oceans on fleet ships, seeing the world from inside cabins and bars. We were cleaning our weapons in Okinawa and looking north to the Korean Peninsula where a new fire threatened to destroy us all. “It’s like playing football for four years and never playing in a game,” we’d say. There was a real sense of emptiness in not going to war, especially for us young lieutenants. Our right-hand men, platoon sergeants who had raised children of war and had been to the Middle East at least once, had the experience we were desperately seeking. Sometimes they covered us when they wanted to prove something. “Sir, we didn’t do that in Afghanistan.”

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During officer training in basic school, the seniors who taught us usually boasted shiny stacks of ribbons earned over several combat tours. These ornaments served as a visual representation of their competence and skill. I really wanted my own Battle Ribbon and Campaign Medals and maybe, though I didn’t want to admit it, a Purple Heart. (After a close friend was wounded in Afghanistan and told me he was going to be okay, a feeling of shame and confusion began to replace my anxiety: jealousy.) I longed for the rite of passage to the Red Temple of Mars, which always seemed to elude me.

As I prepared to leave the ministry this spring, I struggled with a deep sense of inadequacy. I decided to join the Marine Corps because I wanted to minimize regrets. The poverty of time makes us all beggars, and I didn’t want to wake up one day and regret that I served. But I deployed twice without seeing the fight I was looking for. I wondered what was enough. If I shot a North Korean conscript from 200 meters with my rifle, would that answer my questions? What if I airstrike and turn Sangin’s lymph into dust? In infantry officer training, one of my favorite instructors, a stoic Captain Emanuel, told us an excerpt from Dakota Meyer’s memoir about hand-to-hand combat in Afghanistan. Meyer fights with a local warrior and ends up hitting him on the head with a rock. If it were me, would he check the box? Then I will feel like a complete man, a self-made marine officer?

Ultimately, I realized that as hard as it was to kill another human being, it would be even more traumatic to kill my friends, especially the young Marines who were entrusted to me. I had to face this right before my last business trip to Japan. In September 2017, our battalion completed a combat readiness assessment at Camp Pendleton in Southern California to confirm that we are ready to deploy. From the beginning, the exercise seemed cursed. An Abrams tank overturned and several seven-ton trucks were damaged. During a night convoy, the engine fan in one of our armored Humvees failed and carbon monoxide entered the cabin, nearly escaping exposure for those of us inside. I was lured out of the car into the arms of my boss, who took me to our orderly for treatment, which, in typical Marine fashion, consisted of sitting down and drinking water.

The next morning, with our heads still pounding from the engine failure, we deployed the battle center up the hillside. It overlooked a beautiful stretch of arroyos and oaks and the United States Marine Corps Academy West, where new recruits learn to be Marine gunners. I appreciated the easier life of a staff officer after my first assignment as a rifle platoon leader, and I didn’t envy the Marines in my old unit, Charlie Company, riding in amphibious vehicles. I thought of the first platoon and the young men jumping on the landing banks, hot and uncomfortable and bored.

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Suddenly, the idyllic California day was interrupted by frantic chatter on the radio. “Break it, break it, this is not a cherry tree,” the transfers began. “Real victims. Initial reports suggested that the Charlie Company amphibious vehicle of 14 Marines and a sailor self-immolated. A column of smoke rose into the sky. I climbed onto the hood of the Humvee and took aim at him. Flames engulfed the black-green hull, a terrifying testimony to the power of fire, the destroyer of worlds. I wandered restlessly around our position, asking the radio operators for news. In the end, it turned out that there were first platoon guys in the car, which hit an open gas line, got stuck, and then caused steam from the engine’s fire extinguisher. My heart sank. I desperately asked who was inside to get a list of the wounded. Looking at the fire, it was hard to believe that anyone got out alive.

But miraculously, everyone survived, albeit with varying degrees of burns. The platoon sergeant, who was sitting in the commander’s upper hatch, received the most serious injuries. He was thrown out of the car by a strong explosion. As first responders rushed to remove him from the flames, his skin peeled off like a cicada. Sam Kuntz, one of the team leaders who was inside, was a Marine I knew well from our previous deployment. He was a Kiowa-Apache boy from Eastern Washington who looked about 16 years old. I will never forget his cherubic face the day I took command of my platoon. I imagined myself in command of John Rambos platoon eating gunpowder for breakfast. Instead, I was in charge of a bunch of scrawny guys who looked like my friends’ younger brothers. But despite their refined appearance, most of them were more than capable of doing the job of marine gunner. Seeing Sam, who stood 5-foot-7 and never weighed more than 155 pounds, carry heavy loads and push without complaint inspired me when my strength was failing. It was hard for me to concentrate now, knowing that he was injured.

A few days later, we finally finished training and began preparing to return to base. Our battalion chief drove a blackened S.U.V. to the range to get me home early to see Sam. I climbed into the passenger seat and looked over the senior officer’s arm. Something translucent, whitish, like a crusted blister, was smeared on the fabric. “It’s burnt skin,” he told me. He was one of the first responders on the scene and helped pull the Marines out of the fire. He described burning corporals emerging from the top and rear hatches of the vehicle, camouflage uniforms and hair smoking into the California sky.

We got back to Camp Gorneau and I went to visit Sam. He was discharged from the hospital, he was waiting for me near the barracks. Her face glowed as if she had just undergone a chemical peel. Bandages mummified his hands. Her lips curled into a swirl of mustard, badly chapped and thick with Vaseline. We chatted for a bit, mostly dancing around the subject of the fire and what had happened

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