NAD'ALI DISTRICT, Afghanistan -- Imagine how much courage it takes to be a point man in Helmand province, Afghanistan, where insurgent attacks and improvised explosive devices are a common occurrence. Now imagine your specific mission is to detect and locate IEDs as the point man for a patrol.
For Lance Cpl. Martin Simmons of J Company, 42 Commando, this isn’t imagination - it’s reality.
Simmons, a 21-year-old from Lincoln City, U.K., has been a point man and Vallon metal detector operator for J Co. on several IED route-clearing missions since his team deployed to Nad’Ali district in March.
“I like being the point man because it allows me to help the Marines do what they have to do, without worrying about IEDs,” said Simmons. “It’s stressful, but it’s rewarding as well.”
“Being point man on IED route-clearing missions takes skill, determination and resolve,” said Sgt. Maj. Andy Place RM, J Co. Sergeant Major.
“It’s a job that requires him to be highly responsible and have tremendous personal courage,” Place said of Simmons. “I’m proud of the lad for his dedication and fortitude during these missions.”
“He’s approached his duties with cheerful determination and loyal discipline,” added Maj. Aaron Fisher, J Co.’s officer commanding. “He has demonstrated all the qualities of a Royal Marine.”
On the company’s most recent mission, Zamrod Pak 10, the Marines found and disposed of 12 IEDs along a route from Loy Mandeh Kalay south to the provincial capital at Lashkar Gah.
“The overall mission was very successful,” said Simmons. “I’m glad to have been part of a mission that improves the security of this region of Afghanistan for the Marines and Afghan citizens.”
As if the danger of his mission never occurred to him, Simmons explained that he was a little disappointed that insurgent forces didn’t put up much resistance to the clearance operation.
“I was expecting to see some more action,” Simmons said with a shrug. “But I’m happy none of our guys were injured. That’s the most important thing when we go on missions.”
During his free time, Simmons enjoys other adrenaline-inducing activities such as rock climbing and snowboarding.
“I like excitement and doing things that require me to overcome my fears,” he explained. “I think it makes you a stronger person when you do things that seem dangerous.”
After his military service is completed, Simmons hopes to move to the U.S. and work in law enforcement.
“I’d like to be a SWAT officer for a police department,” Simmons said. “I think being in law enforcement would be an exciting way to serve the public.”
For many service members, their job requires skill and courage in order to effectively complete their mission. For some, leading the way is not only a requirement, it is a task they readily accept.
These service members set the bar high for themselves and inspire their peers to exceed their own expectations, and Simmons’ character and dedication has done just that for his fellow Marines of J Co., said Fisher.
“He’s a natural leader,” said Fisher. “He’s proven to be an invaluable asset to this team. We’re very lucky to have him with us.”
Being exceptional means just being part of the team, said Simmons.
“Being part of J Co. means a lot to me,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the guys I work with. I just want to be able to measure up to the expectations they have for me.”