Rain, snow or shine, if a vehicle in southern Afghanistan gets stuck, blown up or breaks down, it’s Lance Cpl. Stephan C. Wall’s job to get it moving again — even if that means braving bomb blast and enemy fire.
A wrecker operator assigned to General Support Motor Transport Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, he is tasked with recovering damaged vehicles and getting resupply missions moving again as quickly as possible.
“A slow target is an easy target,” he told Marine Corps Times during a phone interview from Camp Leatherneck, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Every second a convoy sits still, “the enemy has a chance to pounce and attack it.”
Since deploying in September from Camp Pendleton, Calif., Wall, 21, has recovered about 90 blown-up or otherwise incapacitated vehicles — and he nearly met his maker, twice. For his dedication and bravery along Afghanistan’s treacherous roads, he was named Regional Command Southwest’s Marine of the Year.
The command oversees about 20,000 Marines, and all were eligible for the award. A board of sergeants major in RC-Southwest nominated and reviewed a list of contenders, then recommended four to Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the chief Marine commander in Afghanistan. Mills made the final call.
Wall, who drives 7.5-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement wreckers and 22.5-ton Logistics Vehicle System wreckers, said his job calls for recovering both combat-damaged or stranded vehicles. Every mission is different, requiring him to think on his feet.
While on a routine resupply mission in October, a vehicle in Wall’s convoy was disabled by an improvised explosive device. Working furiously to clear the vehicle from the road, a second IED detonated less than 10 yards away, peppering his vehicle with shrapnel. Rattled but spared serious injury, he quickly finished hooking up the truck and hauled it back to base.
“I felt a little dazed and confused, but I knew that I had to keep doing what I had to do to get out of there,” he said.
He received a Grade 2 concussion and was put on mandatory light duty. Wall received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions that day. He was back behind the wheel a week later.
In November, he had a second close call.
“We were going up to recover a mine roller that was hit by an IED. After waiting for a sweeper team to clear the area, we drove up to the mine roller, and my front left tire hit another IED,” he said.
His vehicle was badly damaged, but again he escaped serious injury.
Despite what his superiors describe as exemplary service, he is humble about his achievements. He credits his success to the Marines and sailors around him, and his family and friends back home.
“I feel honored that I was even put up for the award. I just try to mimic my command. Trying to be like them made me the Marine I am today,” he said.
Wall’s deployment is scheduled to end in April. For now, he said he is taking things a day — and a mile — at a time by keeping the convoys moving.
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing and Recovery Footnotes