Big Marine Unfazed by Enemy Bomb Blast
(July 25, 2010)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Matt Garst absorbed
the direct blast of an improvised explosive device in
Shorsurak, Afghanistan, June 23. Fortunately for Garst, the
bomb's explosives didn't completely detonate. After spending
a day to rest and attend to some aches and pains, Garst
continued his mission.
SOUTHERN SHORSURAK, Afghanistan (July 21, 2010) - Marine
Corps Cpl. Matt Garst continues to do his job here, thanks
to an enemy-emplaced roadside bomb that malfunctioned.
Few people survive stepping on an improvised explosive
device. Even fewer walk away the same day after directly
absorbing the force of the blast, but on June 23, Garst did
A squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment,
Garst was leading his troops that day on a patrol in
Southern Shorsurak, Afghanistan, to establish a vehicle
checkpoint in support of Operation New Dawn.
The group was four miles from Lima Company's newly
established observation post when they approached an
abandoned compound close to where they needed to set up
their checkpoint. The compound would serve well as an
operating base — a place for the squad to set up
communications and rotate Marines in and out of. But first,
it had to be secured.
As they swept the area with a metal detector, the buried IED
registered no metallic signature – it was too deep under the
soil. Two men walked
over it without it detonating.
At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 260 pounds with all his gear on,
Garst is easily the largest man in his squad by 30 or 40
pounds — just enough extra weight to trigger the IED buried
deep in hard-packed soil. |
Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with the squad,
found a pressure plate inside the compound and hollered to
Garst, asking what he should do with it. Garst turned around
to answer and he stepped on the bomb.
"I can just barely remember the boom," Garst recalled. "I
remember the start of a loud noise and then I blacked out."
Since Garst's encounter with the IED, his tale has spread
through the rest of the battalion, and as often happens in
combat units, the story mutates and becomes more and more
What really happened even eludes Garst. When he came to, he
was standing on his feet holding his weapon, turning to see
the remnants of the blast and wondering why his squad had a
look on their faces as if they'd seen a ghost.
Marines in Lima Company think Garst is the luckiest guy in
the battalion, and while that may seem a fair assessment, it
actually was the enemy's shoddy work that left Garst alive
and relatively uninjured. The three-liters of homemade
explosive had only partially detonated.
Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound
caught glimpses of Garst's feet flailing through the air
just above the other side of the building's eight-foot-high
walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away,
where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before
immediately standing back up.
Not quite sure of what had just happened, Garst turned back
toward the blast, now nothing but a column of dirt and smoke
rising toward the sun.
Garst said he'd immediately realized that he'd encountered
"Then I thought, 'Well I'm standing. That's good,'" he
Garst then directed his troops to establish a security
perimeter while letting them know that he was OK. Garst also
radioed back to base, calling for an explosive ordnance
disposal team and a quick-reaction force.
"I called them and said, 'Hey, I just got blown up. Get
ready,'" Garst recalled. "The guy thought I was joking at
first. 'You got blown up? You're not calling me. Get out of
Once the area was cleared, Garst led his squad the four
miles back to their observation post — just hours after he'd
been buffeted by the IED blast.
"I wasn't going to let anybody else take my squad back after
they'd been there for me," he said. "That's my job."
Garst awakened the next day with a pounding headache, he
recalled, and felt as sore as he'd ever been in his life.
"Just getting up from trying to sleep was painful," he said.
But he saw no reason being sore should slow him down. After
a day of rest, Garst was back out on patrol, showing his
Marines and the enemy that just like his resolve, he is
Article and photo by USMC Sgt. Mark Fayloga|
Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
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