News: Virginia native sweeps for IEDs, leads Marines on deployment
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
FIRE BASE FIDDLER’S GREEN, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Lance Cpl. Jason M. McCormick, a field radio operator, received a surprise when he began training for his deployment to Afghanistan – he traded in his radio for a Compact Metal Detector and learned how to scan for improvised explosive devices.
McCormick, a Manassas, Va., native with Headquarters Battery, is now on a seven-month deployment leading his fellow squad members with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, on security patrols, a position the Marines call the “point man.”
McCormick said he wanted to join the Corps since he was teenager, but had dreams of pursuing a passion of working on motorcycles. He began a training program at a local technical college after graduating from Osbourne Park High School. Once he earned his certification, McCormick began working on motorcycles.
“I felt that was something I should do; I was kind of stuck on the mechanic thing,” said McCormick. “I was young; I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do. I tried it out, but it didn’t work. I was good at it, but it didn’t really seem like the right time.”
He added slumps in the economy didn’t help him hold onto his passion. Motorcycles are leisure vehicles for most people, and when cuts are made in budgets, leisure is usually the first to go.
“You get paid a flat rate commission. If there is no work, you don’t get paid,” he said.
McCormick had little money coming in, and he needed a way to support himself. His plan of pursuing his passion was not working out, and he needed a more steady form of income.
“I always liked the Marine Corps; I come from a military family,” said the former motorcycle mechanic. “It felt natural to join.”
McCormick said the Marine Corps has given him the opportunity to serve his country and do something he has always wanted to do – travel.
“I like seeing a lot of different places. I am from the east coast, so I have gotten to see a lot of the west coast,” he stated.
McCormick attended his Military Occupational Specialty school at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., before heading to his first duty station, Camp Pendleton, Calif. He took time off work to tour San Diego and Los Angeles before heading back to Twentynine Palms for pre-deployment training.
Twentynine Palms is where Sgt. Romero Garcia, a Polk City, Fla., native and a squad leader with the battery, first met McCormick and took notice of his attention to detail as the squad’s point man. McCormick’s position on security patrols as the point man is also known as the “sweeper” for the sweeping motion made when using the metal detector.
Garcia and McCormick deployed to Afghanistan together shortly after completing Enhanced Mojave Viper, a pre-deployment training exercise the unit participated in.
From his small beginnings in a local motorcycle shop, McCormick didn’t know what to expect when he arrived in Afghanistan.
“It didn’t quite hit me at first that we were here; it just kind of seemed like another field (training exercise),” said McCormick, who volunteered for this deployment. “It wasn’t until we started doing our jobs and going outside the wire – it gives you a different feeling going out there.”
McCormick uses his metal detector to clear a path for the members of his squad while on security patrols in the area. His squad covers a variety of destinations within the vicinity of the fire base each time they patrol. McCormick is his squad’s guiding light, leading them to their destination and back to base safely.
“Every step you take could be the wrong step,” said McCormick, an outdoor enthusiast. “The sweeper is like a safety precaution to make sure the whole squad gets there and back safely.”
McCormick keeps his head tilted down, scanning his eyes left and right, as he sweeps the path ahead.
Some of the locations the squad patrols may be repeat visits, but McCormick never takes the same route twice. One thing Garcia said he can count on is that McCormick doesn’t make it easy for the enemy to target his squad.
“I can always count on him to pick the hardest route possible,” said Garcia, as he laughed, referring to McCormick’s unexpected route choices. “It makes me feel safe.”
McCormick’s fellow squad members have confidence they can walk freely while performing their security patrols with McCormick leading the way.
“Whenever we are outside the (base), I can’t say we can be relaxed, but everybody feels better about having him in the front because we know he is doing a good job and not slacking off,” said Garcia, a 2001 Auburndale High School graduate. “(We) don’t have to worry about where we are walking; if he cleared it, then it is cleared; if he stops, we know there might be something there worth investigating.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.