Marine Corps Base Quantico -- “It’s fitting that this mess hall is being named for Staff Sgt. Malachowski because he was hungry,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Sabado, executive officer of Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, said at a dedication of the new building at Weapons Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico Jan. 19. “I don’t mean he was hungry for chow hall food. He was hungry for something deeper that we can all relate to. We all have goals, dreams, and aspirations. Staff Sgt. Malachowski was no different.”
James M. Malachowski, 25, from Hampstead, Maryland, was an infantry rifleman who served three combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2007. He was a combat marksmanship coach and primary marksmanship instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He was selected as a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team and contributed to the team’s success at the regional and national levels.
In 2010, he was reassigned as a platoon sergeant for 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines and was deployed to Marjah, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was his fourth combat deployment. The following March, while clearing a building to establish a security control base in the village, he was killed after he stepped on an improvised explosive device.
“The most important thing to him is that he not be forgotten,” said Col. Timothy Parker, Weapons Training Battalion commanding officer. “Now a whole new generation of Marines who come through here will see the plaque and say ‘I want to be like that guy.’”
Maj. Adam Sacchetti, who commanded Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines in Marjah, said he had the “privilege and honor of serving next to Malachowski.” He spoke about Malachowski’s final deployment and his last moments.
“The man looked like a Marine Corps recruit poster,” Sacchetti said. “He was built like an action figure. He instantly took up every room he entered both physically and spiritually.”
Sacchetti told the audience how the staff sergeant improvised weight lifting equipment in the austere conditions of their base using MRE boxes full of rocks and dirt and sandbags wrapped in tape for dumbbells. He set an example for his Marines to follow a daily routine to fight boredom and inspired them to take ownership of the mission. He took time to build up lasting relationships with village elders and children.
“He could conduct a combat patrol and also be that smiling face, showing the villagers that they had a better option than the Taliban,” Sacchetti said, showing the audience his favorite photo of the warrior surrounded by Afghan children and cracking a wide grin.
Only a few weeks before he was killed, Sacchetti said, Malachowski demonstrated his extraordinary courage by running without hesitation directly into an area that had just been blown up by an IED to pull a corporal out of the wreckage. A few days later, on March 17, he sprinted 900 yards through enemy fire to link up with friendly Afghan forces to determine their exact location before airstrikes could be initiated.
On March 20, Sacchetti and Malachowski were inside a building they had selected to be a local security control base. The building had been cleared by bomb-sniffing dogs but at least one IED went undetected and Malachowski stepped on it. The explosion filled the building with dirt and smoke, lifted Sacchetti into the air, and left him on the ground bleeding. When he came to, he could hear Malachowski screaming.
“But he wasn’t screaming for help,” Sacchetti said. “He was screaming ‘Please stay back!’ He was begging us to stay away from him so we wouldn’t trigger another IED. He was mortally wounded and his last words on this earth were expressing concern for his brother Marines.”
Sacchetti said that there are two things Marines need to do for their fallen friends: remember them, through buildings like Malachowski Hall, and live their lives for them.
“We need to do what they didn’t get a chance to do,” he said.
“Marines are going to have a bad day, but then they’re going to come here to this building with their brothers and sisters and share camaraderie,” Sacchetti continued. “Taking care of our brothers and sisters—that’s the Marines.”
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