MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Officer candidates will now be training and running on trails named for some of the hardest battles fought by Marines during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Col. Kris Stillings, commanding officer at Officer Candidates School, led a ceremony today here at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. He stood with officer candidates lined up in formation at the newly named intersection of Fallujah and Kunar trails. Sangin Trail, the third to be named, runs slightly to the north.
“These trails, just like the other trails we have here … these names mean something,” Stillings said. “Candidates will run on them, they will hike on them and at times there will be tears on them, just like in the places that they’re named after.”
Navy Cross recipient Capt. Ademola Fabayo was the guest of honor. Stillings said he was there to represent Marine Corps history, since the event was about more than just the naming of trails.
Fabayo was presented with the nation’s second highest valor award in June 2011 for his actions in Kunar province, Afghanistan. Fabayo was credited with extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Ganjgal – the same that earned former Cpl. Dakota Meyer the Medal of Honor.
As previously reported, then 1st Lt. Fabayo and other members of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, out of Okinawa Japan, were ambushed Sept. 8, 2009, in the village near the Pakistan border. Fabayo repeatedly braved enemy fire on foot in order to reestablish connection with Marines and a corpsman at the front of the patrol. Later, he took the gunner’s position in a vehicle and reentered the kill zone to help recover the bodies of missing Marines.
“This captain standing in front of you exemplifies everything that we’re trying to teach you here,” Stillings told the candidates. “Everything that is good about the Marine Corps, everything that we want from our officers – firm leadership, courage under fire, decisiveness and the ability to always look out for Marines.”
Fabayo then told the candidates that any of them are capable of demonstrating the same type of leadership in the future. The key, he told them, was to pay attention to Marine Corps history.
“The trails that you see here are telling a story, our story as Marines,” Fabayo said. “I remember running the trails and stopping to read the citations. … When you run down these trails you need to stop and read the citations and see what these Marines actually did.”
Stillings said his operations officer, Maj. Adam Jeppe, approached him with the idea of naming some of the trails for recent battles a few months ago. Since Marines have been involved in many important areas in Iraq and Afghanistan, deciding on the names took some deliberation, he said. The candidates at OCS learn about historic battles, and they decided to include Kunar province and Sangin district in Afghanistan and Fallujah, Iraq.
Candidates Michael Choate, Alicia Peterson and Sky Colvil are all prior enlisted service members who served in the three areas of Iraq and Afghanistan that were honored today. They called the captain’s presence there motivating.
“It’s good to see that Marines are being rewarded,” said Choate, a staff sergeant, now officer candidate, who served in Fallujah. “Marines of his caliber show that any officer can do it if we put our minds to it.”
Seeing a trail named for Fallujah brought back a lot of memories for Colvil, an officer candidate who served there as a Navy corpsman. As someone who hopes to lead Marines in the future, he took Fabayo’s message to heart.
“It’s good to know that he passes it onto everyone else and challenges you to say, ‘Hey, you can do it too. You do have it if you want to – you can look out for your Marines just as I have done.’ ”
Stay tuned for more from exclusive interviews with Stillings and Fabayo.