CAMP LEATHERNECK, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Many young people feel driven to escape small towns to pursue dreams of college degrees, fruitful jobs, and lavish lives of luxury. Unlike many who fit this stereotype, Cpl. Matthew J. Troutman knew exactly what he wanted when he left the small town he hails from, and it was something as simple as a name.
Troutman, a Saugatuck, Mich., native and the assistant operations chief for Headquarters Battalion (Forward), 2nd Marine Division (Forward), graduated in 2006 from Saugatuck High School with a class of 58 students, approximately one-twentieth of the town’s entire population.
Saying Saugatuck is a small town is no understatement. With a population of less than a thousand, according to a 2010 U.S. census, Troutman said everybody knows everybody.
“I couldn’t walk down the street without people saying, “You’re a Troutman, aren’t you?” he added. “I needed to get away and make a name for myself instead of being known for my dad’s name.”
Troutman, who is cordially known as “Fish” to his co-workers, decided he wanted to join the military, which was not uncommon for his family. Troutman took his family and friends off guard when he told them he was joining the Marine Corps. Though Troutman has family members who were Marines, he was the first person from Saugatuck to join the Corps in more than 25 years.
“I graduated high school at 118 pounds. No one thought I could do it. I did it to prove people wrong,” said Troutman. “I knew I would be a stereotypical college kid – I would have partied and dropped out. I knew (the Marines) would straighten me out, and I knew it would be the toughest, so I figured go big or go home!”
Troutman joined the Marine Corps in July 2006 as a data technician, fixing broken electronics like computers, power supplies, and printers.
He came to Afghanistan in May 2011 not as a data tech, but as a member of the 2nd Marine Division (Fwd) commanding general’s Personal Security Detachment. He was recently re-assigned to Headquarters’ Battalion as the assistant operations chief.
Staff Sgt. Dorota Gregory, a Chicago native, is the training and operations chief for Headquarters Battalion (Forward) and works with Troutman in the Headquarters Operations Section.
“I assist the operations officer with setting up training, working on orders, tracking (those going home), and running the (weapons) range as the officer-in-charge or range safety officer,” said Gregory. “(Troutman) helps me run the ranges by acting as the firing line noncommissioned officer and calling all commands (for the shooters). He (also) sets up the training for Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training briefs.”
Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training is mandatory familiarization training Marines must complete the first week they are deployed here. Troutman is responsible for organizing the RSO&I range by coordinating with the units that fall under the division when they first arrive in Helmand province, as well as coordinating with the instructors to set timelines for the training.
This training builds upon the training units conduct prior to deployment and gives them the opportunity to retest their weapon systems in local conditions, receive updates on operating procedures, and fine-tune their understanding of the current mood and threats within the area. Coordinating this pivotal portion of a unit’s deployment from the United States facilitates a smooth transition to the battle space.
Troutman, who starts his day off with a cup of coffee, said he likes his job because, “No two days are ever the same; the only constant thing out here is that cup of coffee. If I wanted to do the same thing for the rest of my life, I would have worked in a factory.”
Working with different units has given Troutman a fresh perspective on how he views the Marine Corps. He said each unit he works with operates slightly different, and he applies his observations to his life as a Marine.
“I look at it as more tools in the toolbox for me. It makes me a well-rounded Marine,” said Troutman. “The more experiences you can go through (in the Marine Corps), it just helps better you as a person, thus making you a better Marine.”
Troutman said he learns something everyday from this deployment – his second in a combat area – but he is happy to reel in his last few months to get back to his family. He said going to Iraq in 2008 was not a big deal for him because he didn’t have a family then, but this is his first deployment being married, so this is a new concept for him. His wife, however, grew up in a military family, so she has been through deployments with loved ones before.
Troutman said missing birthdays, his wedding anniversary, and holidays is not the hard part of being separated from his family. He recently went home for two weeks of Rest and Recuperation leave, arriving two days before his son was born.
“It was hard coming back after holding my son for the first time and just knowing I am going to miss the first five to six months of his life,” said Troutman. “Being out here and not being able to see my wife and kids everyday, I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t think I would miss them this much.”
Troutman said he has a little more than three months left in Afghanistan and looks forward to getting back to the few names he’s made for himself: Marine … Husband … Daddy.
Editor’s Note: Headquarters Battalion (Forward) belongs 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 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.
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This work, Michigan native makes name for himself in Marine Corps, Afghanistan, by SSgt Earnest J. Barnes, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.