Progress in Afghanistan, one Yellow Schoolhouse at a time


In the fog of war, progress can sometime be hard to measure. With that in mind I’d like to submit the following:

That’s Lance Cpl. Joseph Starrett re-enlisting recently at the Yellow Schoolhouse, a facility in Marjah, Afghanistan, that served as a staging ground for two squads of Marines last May when I embedded with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. I believe I crashed on the floor of the room with the open doorway in the background.

Regular Battle Rattle readers will probably remember the schoolhouse well. It was in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Marjah at the time, with Marines taking contact from enemy forces almost daily. Still, they managed to keep good spirits for the most part.

Starrett, a Yellow Schoolhouse veteran from 2010, decided to re-up there this year while deployed to Marjah again with 3/6. The unit covered the northern half of Marjah last summer, but is the only infantry battalion based in the district now.

First Lt. Jackson Smith, company executive officer with India Company 3/6, shared the photographs. He oversaw Marines at the schoolhouse last year as commander of 3rd Platoon, India Company.

“It is every Marine’s right to name the location of his reenlistment ceremony, and Starrett chose his old stomping grounds,” Smith said. “We were able to round up most of the schoolhouse alums who are still with the company and get them on a convoy to witness the ceremony.”

Among those present at Starrett’s re-enlistment were Navy Seaman Matthew Dishmon, a corpsman who braved machine gun on July 1, 2010, to pull wounded Lance Cpl. Matthew Earle from a kill zone within a mile of the schoolhouse.

“Earle lost nearly five pints of blood after being hit with machine-gun fire, and Dishmon dragged him out of the street while his squad watched tracers pass between Doc’s arms and torso,” Smith said.

Dishmon was able to revive him, and both men survived the ordeal. For his actions, Dishmon received the Bronze Star with V device in February.

“It was pretty emotional for all of us to come back to that spot and see the changes that have been achieved here over the last year,” Smith said. “And, more importantly, to see these two amazing individuals not only still in the fight, but back at the very spot where they proved themselves.”

More than 300 students now attend the school, Smith said. Afghan police run a checkpoint outside its grounds and Marines live within a kilometer, but it is no longer needed as a patrol base.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Hi Dan,

    From his lips, my son HMC2 Tyler Burdick (who you met in May, 2010) seriously regrets that instead of being right there, right now, with his beloved 3/6 India Company Marines, he is between Balboa NMC in San Diego and BAMC in San Antonio still trying to save two legs shattered by a July, 2010, IED blast right under his MRAP seat.

    Thanks for the attention you have focused on him and his comrades.

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