MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif --
Sgt. David J. Lang said he never saw it coming.
This is what Lang, a combat engineer with Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, said regarding his selection as the noncommissioned officer of the year by the Marine Corps Engineer Association July 9.
“I was at a wedding in Wisconsin and got a text message saying congratulations for winning. It was pretty cool.
“My company commander, executive officer and company gunnery sergeant submitted the package.” said Lang, a Port Orchard, Wash., native.
Lang said he was told he won the award for his actions as a squad leader in Afghanistan last year, where his squad was attached to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
“We did a lot of mobility and IED [improvised explosive device] breaching operations, mine and IED detection operations and night sweeps,” Lang said.
1st Lt. Patrick J. Caffrey, the executive officer of Company A, 3rd CEB, said Lang’s squad met diverse situations in Afghanistan and excelled.
“Despite being under-manned, under-equipped and out of touch from his platoon headquarters for weeks at a time, he continued to perform above and beyond all expectations,” said Caffrey, a Long Valley, N.J., native. “For every large platoon and company sized deliberate offensive raid, Sgt. Lang personally led his squad and the rest of Fox Company from the front, often exposing himself to enemy direct and indirect fire and risking stepping on pressure plate IEDs to complete his engineer mission.”
Lang remembered one obstacle in particular he and his men had to overcome while in Afghanistan. The squad’s mine clearing line charge, perhaps the most destructive tool in a combat engineer’s arsenal, could not make it through Afghanistan’s rough terrain.
“We ended up having to take the rocket system off our MICLIC and secure it to a 7-ton truck,” Lang said with a laugh. “It was unconventional but it got the job done.”
Cpl. Kyle W. Page, a combat engineer with 3rd CEB, who was in Lang’s squad during the deployment, said Lang always took care of his Marines.
“He was a good leader,” said Page, a native of Denver. “He’s very knowledgeable, and if our squad ever needed anything he was there for us.”
Now that Lang is back stateside, Caffrey said he still sees those outstanding leadership qualities in him.
“The most impressive thing about Sgt. Lang is how humble he has remained despite all of his accomplishments,” Caffrey said. “When you ask him, he'll tell you that all of the credit belongs to his Marines and that, to me, is the biggest sign of a true leader. His performance and level of motivation alone compel Marines both above and below him in the chain of command to bring themselves up to his level.”
Lang said he still seeks ways to become a better noncommissioned officer.
“The best way I can continue to improve as an NCO is to push for lessons learned,” Lang said. “I have to make sure Marines know what to expect before they go overseas. My best advice for Marines is to be ready to think, be unconventional and go beyond the textbooks.”
Lang and the rest of the award recipients are scheduled to attend an awards banquet at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas Oct. 14.