News: Tennessee corpsman returns to changed Marjah one year after battle
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
MARJAH DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Those who served in the battle for Marjah in 2010 experienced many trials, tragedies, and triumphs, yet none of them expected to be back in the same area of responsibility a year later. The actions the Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, took during that battle reflect the sacrifice and accomplishments of the men in the unit while contributing to the liberation of the city from insurgents evident today.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew A. Dishmon, a Jamestown, Tenn., native and a Navy corpsman with India Company, 3/6, was one of those involved in the intense fighting as coalition forces battled to remove insurgent influence from the city. His involvement in the battle would touch the life of a fellow service member and his family.
Dishmon said he knew he wanted to join the military since childhood. It was his grandfather’s service in the Army that inspired his life-altering decision and added.
As a corpsman, Dishmon is responsible for making sure all the Marines in his platoon are in good health and trained in combat life saving skills. He explained Marines and sailors cannot deploy unless they are 100 percent medically ready.
“I take care of their shots and other things to get them ready for deployment,” said Dishmon, who joined the Navy in June 2008. “There are only two of us in the platoon, so we have to work together to get everything done on time.”
Dishmon’s responsibilities do not stop after his unit deploys, and he can testify a deployment has the potential to be more stressful than the preparation for it.
“Out here our main job is to make sure the Marines are fighting ready, and when they do get injured, we take care of them,” said Dishmon. “(We begin) treating trauma and taking care of them until the helicopter gets here to get them.”
In Marjah last year, Dishmon’s platoon was spilt into two locations, and his squad lived out of a local center for elementary education most of the deployment -- a location the Marines referred to as the yellow schoolhouse for its color.
“Depending on where you were in the city, there were good times and bad times,” said 1st Lt. Jackson Smith, a Bethesda, Md., native and the executive officer for India Company. “But for the yellow schoolhouse – for those guys who were there full-time -- there were not a lot of good times. It was bad or it was really bad for the most part.”
During that deployment, Dishmon saved Lance Cpl. Matthew T. Earle, a Manassas, Va., native and a close friend, by pulling him to safety and performing life-saving procedures after Earle was shot during a firefight. Dishmon received the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device for his actions. This award is presented to individuals who distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or service while engaged in action against an enemy of the U.S. and, when awarded for valor, it is the fourth highest award in the American armed services.
Smith, who was Dishmon’s platoon commander on their 2010 deployment, said it is guys like Dishmon and Earle who made the difference in Marjah. He added their dedication to the mission and to one another’s well-being were huge contributing factors in the unit’s success in the battle for Marjah.
Dishmon said in comparison to last year, his current deployment is relatively quite, so when he is not on patrols he takes the opportunity to teach the Marines he serves the extra medical knowledge that could help them in combat.
“So far this year everything is a lot more calm. I’m in the mobile section this year, so it is a lot different for me,” said Dishmon, a 2008 graduate of York Institute in Jamestown, Tenn.
Dishmon was assigned to one of India’s infantry platoon’s last year and regularly performed foot patrols with the Marines, vice his current assignment with the company as the corpsman for the Quick Reaction Force.
“We do mounted patrols instead of (foot patrols). We are the QRF at all times. We make sure our communications system is up, our gear is staged, and our trucks are ready to go at all times; that way if anyone needs us we are ready to go,” Dishmon explained. “If (the Marines) get into firefights, we can get out there to them as soon as possible to help them.”
Mounted patrols keep the QRF busy, but Dishmon said he often recalls the hardships and successes his platoon endured last year. He said the Marines and sailors with his company were perplexed at the change they saw when they returned and are proud of their work whenever they look back on their 2010 deployment.
“We all talk about (now) compared to last year when we were here. We were getting into (firefights) a lot, almost everyday, and now we never see any firefights,” said Dishmon. “It is awesome being here with the guys you were here with last year, so you can see the difference we’ve made. This place has done a 180 degree turnaround.
“It shows that what we do is actually helping,” he added. “We didn’t know what to expect this time; when you see it like this you see it is actually working.”
Editor’s note: India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in 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 Force 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.