Feb. 15, 2011 —
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Antonio Wilcoxson, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, stands post as the sun rises at a patrol base near Combat Outpost Ouellette, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper.
Combat Outpost Ouellette, Helmand province, Afghanistan (Feb. 15, 2011) — An Improvised Explosive Device blast sent a squad of Marines on foot patrol scrambling for cover in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, Mar. 22, 2009. Ignoring his fatal wounds, the squad leader continued to direct his Marines’ fire and call in supporting attack helicopters to fight off the Taliban assault that followed the blast, while a quick reaction force raced to the Marines’ position. For his actions, Squad Leader Cpl. Michael W. Ouellette was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
Ouellette’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, returned to Afghanistan nearly two years later under the name Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Regimental Combat Team 2, to establish and maintain security and support development projects in portions of Helmand Province, allowing the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to foster socio-economic development there. One of the positions BLT 3/8 will operate from: Combat Outpost Ouellette.
“He was definitely a strong leader and a mentor first,” said Cpl. Jesse Raper, then a junior Marine in Ouellette’s squad who applied a tourniquet to the squad leader’s leg on that fateful day. “When it came to combat, no one was better.”
“I never really realized just how good a leader he was until he was gone,” said Raper, now a team leader with 2nd Platoon, Company I. “I can look back now and see how I raise my junior Marines, and every little thing I do was the same thing he did to me, instilling strict discipline, trying to bring out the best in them. He raised great Marines. That’s what he did.”
COP Ouellette will serve as the base of operations for portions of BLT 3/8, charged with neutralizing insurgent networks and supporting development projects in Helmand Province. Clearing and initial construction of COP Ouellette was begun by Seabees from Camp Leatherneck and by Company L, BLT 3/8, Ouellette’s former company.
“Originally I was in Lima Company,” Raper said, “and we pride ourselves on strength and honor, the fact that we’re better than everyone else. He instilled that in us. He was a firm believer in that. Raper said his former squad leader would be honored to have the combat outpost named for him, “and take the fight to the enemy.”
“I miss him dearly,” said Raper. “A lot of guys would say he’ll never be forgotten. In this case that’s true with his whole squad, anyone that ever met him. He was very intimidating, and he always left an effect on you that was lasting.”