Horn, Sabel, Huff, Grant and many others were indoctrinated into the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines Scout Sniper Platoon. I recall the favorites, the candidates who people wanted to see make it to the platoon and the one’s people wanted on their team. During this time I was a team leader in the platoon and I didn’t think I’ll be going back for another tour. Well as many Marines know, in the Marine Corps, anything can happen.
I don’t recall how we (Team Leaders) decided who had first pick, but what I do recall is that I picked individuals that were different and capable of anything I could throw at them. These guys were the underdogs on that draft list, but they were guys I wanted to live and die with.
Nine years ago seems like a long time and trying to remember the type of person I was then, is fairly difficult. From what I recall and what many have said to me, I was an intense person and pretty much a pain in the ass to anyone who worked with me during those times. So for the sorry bastards who were to become my teammates, life had in store for them things that no one could have imagined.
Reaper 4: Mendez, Horn, Sabel, Huff, Grant
The first run is always the hardest, for everyone. In a team, everyone possess at least one strength and at least one weakness. When faced with many strengths and many weaknesses, leaders should learn quickly what works and what doesn’t, to bring a team together. We ran to break down our weaknesses and build up our strengths.
As we prepared for our first run, one could sense the anxiety, fear, and excitement emitting from each of us. I’m not sure where it came from but I know that it didn’t help to have a team leader like me, one who was rumored to have ran someone into hyperthermia in the past (sorry about that Sanchez). Nonetheless, we set off on our run. Through the quad and across the road, we ran with no objective and no end in sight. What the team didn’t know at the time, we were already beginning our first training lesson.
Many teams that morning ran and pushed the physical limits of their teammates. Breaking them down to build them back up. As we sprinted to the running path near the bay, I could see the fierce concentration and focus each team member had when I looked at them. It was the perfect time to call an audible and break down the first obstacle, misconceptions.
On a combat patrol, each team member is dependent of the man in front or behind them. There is always some method of communicating to everyone about what is going on. In the event someone spots the enemy, and if the enemy has spotted you, several things can take place: inform your team; take cover; or engage the enemy. By calling “Contact Front” in the middle of a run, I tested each member for their reaction.
Lesson 1: Brother’s
All these years have gone by and I never forget how important that first lesson was for both my teammates and myself. We all learned something about each other, we all learned what the expectations were going to be and how we were going to operate as a team. Horn was the only other team member, besides me, who had deployed to a combat theater. Sabel, Huff, and Grant were fresh out of SOI (School of Infantry). Horn would be my Assistant Team Leader but no matter what, we were all equals and treated each other as such. Each man’s life mattered just as much as everyone else’s.
Horn spoke about his personal life in Ohio, that life we all had before the Marine Corps. One time he pulled out a dental hygiene kit that looked like something out of a thriller movie . Horn use to work in a dentist office and became a sort of a neat freak about his teeth. So everywhere he went he had this hygiene kit, so he could give himself a deep cleaning of his already near perfectly white teeth. Horn needed something to keep him focused and stimulated. This was his thing, everyone had something they were obsessed about and this was his. Now that we were a team, STA and Reaper 4 was his life. For Horn, these were the things that made him happy in that time, the things that helped him move on from his past.
That first run with you and the team was the first memory that sparked into my head when I heard you past away. After you survived being shot at in Iraq, the pain you suffered afterwards just made it harder for you to live a normal life. But you tried everyday and I always wished you the best. I’m really sad you’re gone brother, but it makes me even sadder to say goodbye. I’ll see you soon Matt, Semper Fi.