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Navy Cross recipient gives post-combat advice

Fabayo urges Marines to support one another

Nov. 21, 2012 - 03:51PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 21, 2012 - 03:51PM  |  
Capt. Ademola Fabayo, who earned the Navy Cross for actions in Kunar province, Afghanistan, speaks to officer candidates assembled at a trail dedication ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on Nov. 9.
Capt. Ademola Fabayo, who earned the Navy Cross for actions in Kunar province, Afghanistan, speaks to officer candidates assembled at a trail dedication ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on Nov. 9. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Capt. Ademola Fabayo led Marines at Ganjgal, one of the most infamous battles of the Afghanistan War. He earned a Navy Cross there, and he lost men there.

Now he makes sure his Marines — including Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer — stay in touch with one another.

Everyone handles life post-combat differently, and that's the case for the members of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, out of Okinawa, Japan, who clashed with more than 50 Taliban fighters Sept. 8, 2009. When they returned home from Kunar province, Meyer — now a sergeant in the Individual Ready Reserve — wrote a book about it.

But Fabayo, now 31, said he won't read it.

"It's good to write a book to let people know what happened because most people don't know that part of the Afghanistan War." Fabayo told Marine Corps Times. "But I already know. So for somebody like me … it just brings back memories."

Fabayo, now a staff platoon commander at The Basic School here, said he spoke to Meyer before the book came out.

"I always have to remind him that people forget he was a young Marine at the time," he said. "It's a small family that we have, and all of us who were there need to stay together; it's important."

Five U.S. troops were killed in that battle, including three Marines. Four of the men died in the fight and one about a month later. At least eight of the Afghan troops the embedded team was training and an interpreter were also killed.

Meyer, 24, wrote about his post-combat struggles in his recently released book, "Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War," including a time when he contemplated suicide. Fabayo said he struggles with the ongoing effects of traumatic brain injury.

The captain said he went back to TBS to put his energy toward exerting a good influence on new lieutenants. His leaders, both as a young enlisted Marine and then as an officer, made him what he is today, he said, so now he tries to do the same. It's a good way to deal with some of his struggles.

"I spend a lot of time with my students," he said. "The energy you get from being frustrated or nervous, if you focus it on training the next generation, for me it's a good way to balance any negative emotions that I might have."

Col. Kris Stillings, commanding officer at Officer Candidates School, recently led a ceremony naming trails in honor of some of the battles Marines fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Fabayo was the guest of honor.

"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 said he wanted the candidates there to understand that the battles they learn about, like the one in which he fought, aren't just part of history; they're happening today. And for the Marines who were in Kunar province with him, they now need to continue supporting one another as they get older, he said.

"At the end of the day, when there's no book and there are no medals or anything like that, the only people you're going to be able to talk to are your guys who were there, because nobody else is going to understand," he said.

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