CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
More than 150 service members bowed their heads in silence and paid their final respects here, Dec. 26, to two Marines who dedicated their lives to eliminating the largest threat on today’s battlefield, improvised explosive devices.
Sgt. Jason T. Smith, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Gunnery Sgt. Justin E. Schmalstieg, a native of Pittsburgh, were killed in action Nov. 19 and Dec. 15, respectively, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Smith, an explosive ordnance disposal technician, and Schmalsteig, EOD team leader, were assigned to 1st EOD Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
“Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when we need to say goodbye to two of our finest young Marines,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kelly J. Colton, company commander, 1st EOD Company, 1st MLG (FWD). “These were two EOD technicians that chose to push themselves to a higher level of technical ability and skill that most do not. This is dedication to duty and this shows the great character of the men we remember today.”
Smith enlisted in the Marine Corps and completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in September 2000. He deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and 2007.
Smith served as a motor transportation operator and career retention specialist before entering the EOD field in June 2008. He reported to Eglin Air Force Base for military occupational school in February 2009. He then received orders to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Japan EOD team only to report five months later to 1st EOD Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st MLG, in Camp Pendleton, Calif., as an individual augment for deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“There are so many words that could describe Jason, but ‘brother’ is how I will always remember him,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Olson, team leader, 1st EOD, 1st MLG (FWD). “Jason was an outstanding young EOD technician; he was always looking for something to learn.”
Schmalstieg enlisted in the Marine Corps and completed recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in May 2001. After completion of bulk fuel specialist school at Fort Lee, Va., in July 2001, Schmalstieg was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. He deployed to Kuwait from April to June 2003 as an individual augment. In December 2003, Schmalstieg was assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion in Okinawa, Japan. While with 9th ESB, he was promoted to the rank of corporal and accepted into the EOD field.
In September 2004, he reported to Eglin Air Force Base for EOD school where he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Upon completion of EOD training, Schmalstieg returned to 9th ESB as an EOD technician. He later deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from February to September 2006. Three months later, Schmalstieg deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit from December 2006 to July 2007.
In September 2008, Schmalstieg was assigned to 1st EOD Company, 7th ESB, Camp Pendleton, Calif. In February 2009, he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In September 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Justin was a great friend, an outstanding EOD tech and was the type of husband to his wife, Ann, that would make any one of us feel inadequate as a man,” said Staff Sgt. Scott M. Carter, EOD technician. “Justin, thank you for letting me be a part of your life. I am a more proficient EOD tech and a better man for having known you.”
The losses of these two great young men will lay heavy on the hearts of those with 1st EOD Company for many years to come, said Colton.
“Justin and Jason, thank you for being who you are, thank you for being heroes,” Colton said. “You will live in our thoughts and prayers and you will never be forgotten.”