MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
It is said good things come to those who wait. But in the case of one Marine, waiting did not play as big a role as his hard work.
Sgt. Matthew P. Askren, an instructor for the multichannel equipment operators course for Company B, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, received a Bronze Star Medal in a ceremony outside the MCCES Headquarters building March 24.
According to the citation, Askren was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his actions while serving as a driver and gunner noncommissioned officer in charge for the Regional Corps Advisory Command in central Afghanistan from October 2007 to November 2008.
While serving as an advisor, Askren lead two other Marines and 28 Afghan National Army soldiers up 4,000 feet in elevation at midnight to set up observation posts to deter enemy attacks on two American forward operating bases.
The 12-day mission ended in success with 10 enemy positions and one enemy safe house destroyed, according to the citation.
Askren and his attachment also provided protection to an American patrol from enemy force fire in August 2008.
“It’s humbling,” said Askren after his award ceremony. “I just feel like I worked hard, and I’m thankful someone noticed it.”
Askren said it was through inspiration from his leaders that he was able to perform at a level that warrants this award.
“When I re-enlisted, I was around extraordinary leadership,” said the Bolingbrook, Ill., native. “That made my choice very easy to make and my deployment awesome. They really inspired me and let me max my potential. I didn’t want to stop that train’s momentum.”
Gunnery Sgt. Lafayette Waters, Askren’s company gunnery sergeant when he served as an armourer with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, in Okinawa, Japan, inspired Askren to become an advisor.
“He really was a class act,” Askren said about Waters, who attended his award ceremony. “He was the first Marine Corps advisor and Bronze Star recipient I met.”
Waters said he was proud to see Askren excel in his career.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he got this,” Waters said about the award. “He was always a go-getter. He was always willing to stay late and go the extra mile with no complaining whatsoever. I’m glad this happened for him.”
Gunnery Sgt. David Rogers, a fellow advisor who also served with Askren during his first deployment in 2007, agreed.
“I’m honored that I got to work with him,” said Rogers, a Jonesville, La., native. “Have you ever heard of the saying ‘a quiet storm’? That’s him. You won’t ever hear him talking about his accomplishments. Of the six months I was in Afghanistan with him, he covered more than 9,000 miles in convoys, but there wasn’t a day he wouldn’t volunteer to go out. He was well respected by all branches and ranks.”
Another symbol of Askren’s inspiration is found on his right wrist where he wears a black memorial band with the name “Capt. Jesse Melton” and the date of his death, Sept. 9, 2008, inscribed on the front.
“Captain Melton didn’t get to receive his Bronze Star,” Askren said as he gripped the band and twisted it. “His parents did. I’ve had three folks I’ve served with whose parents had to receive their Bronze Stars and two more who got theirs in hospitals.”
The unfortunate deaths of his brothers-in-arms helps Askren constantly assess his value as a Marine, he said.
“I have to look in the mirror daily and evaluate myself,” Askren said. “You have to be able to ask yourself if you would want to work for you. It’s easy to say others are messed up or say that the Marine Corps is giving you a raw deal, but what are you doing?”
Askren said self evaluation and opportunity are the secrets to success in the in the Marine Corps.
“Opportunity breeds success,” Askren said. “Part of me thinks I’m lucky to have gotten opportunities that many other Marines don’t ever get.”
Askren said as he continues his service in the Corps, he also hopes to continue setting the example for his junior Marines and to share the leadership he feels is his responsibility to share.