Last Known Activity Fighting and leading his Marines in the war of Afghanistan.
Comments/Citation Citation: For heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy while serving as the Operations Chief, Delta Company, 2D Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Expeditionary Brigade - Afghanistan, from 6 May 2009 to 11 July 2009 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Master Sergeant Hatfield led the company advanced party to Afghanistan to supervise the receipt and inspection of 25 Light Armored Vehicles and all stock list 3 items. His diligence allowed Delta Company to complete final preparations for combat in a mere two weeks after the main body arrived, thereby enabling the battalion to meet timelines for offensive operations. During the initial days of OPERATION KHANJARI, Master Sergeant Hatfield organized the defense of the Khan Neshin district center and helped repel several combined arms counterattacks by the enemy. The force protection measures he implemented withstood two direct hits from 107-milimeter rockets during one of these attacks and prevented serious injury or death to company leadership and civilian aid workers in the area. On the evening of 11 July 2009, the enemy attacked a combat logistics patrol led by Master Sergeant Hatfield with an improvised explosive device. Master Sergeant Hatfield received life-threatening wounds in the blast but directed rescuers to tend to his driver first before allowing them to remove him from the vehicle. Although gravely wounded, Master Sergeant Hatfield continued to see to the treatment of his crew until he succumbed to his wounds during medical evacuation. Master Sergeant Hatfield's distinctive contributions, unrelenting perseverance, and steadfast devotion to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Servce.
Summary of Action: MSgt Hatfield was in receipt of imminent danger pay during this period. Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.
MSgt Jerome D. Hatfield is enthusiastically recommended for the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device (posthumously) for his heroic achievement as Operations Chief, Company D, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade from 6 May to 11 July 2009 in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. MSgt Hatfield's impressive achievements, leadership, and selfless devotion to duty are set forth in the following:
MSgt Hatfield volunteered for a transfer from H&S Company to Company D when 2d LAR Bn received short-notice deployment orders to Afghanistan as part of the 2d MEB. This was a period of key leadership transition in Co D due to PCS orders and post-deployment reassignments. With only 6.5 months of dwell after a 7-month deployment (less than 1:1 deploy-to-dwell ratio) following OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM 08.1, MSgt Hatfield assumed his post. With a 1stLt commanding officer awaiting PCS orders, the executive officer on temporary additional duty, and a new 1stSgt unfamiliar with LAR operations, MSgt Hatfield immediately became the keystone of the company. As the operations chief, he oversaw the transfer and integration of more than 50% of Company D personnel, he then formed vehicle crews and scout teams to prepare for training. MSgt Hatfield also reorganized the armory and supervised the receipt of 25 new LAV-A2 variants. He diligently ensured closure of all outstanding discrepancies, maintained accountability of more than $90 million worth of equipment, and set a standard of professionalism that would prove invaluable when the company repeated these procedures twice more during training and embarkation.
After organizing and equipping the company, MSgt Hatfield applied his 18 years of Marine Corps experience to training the Marines for combat. With less than 120 days notice prior to deployment, he helped develop and support a condensed training plan that achieved quantifiable improvement in individual and small unit skills. An example of MSgt Hatfield's exceptional performance during this period was his support of annual LAV-25 gunnery qualifications while simultaneously embarking the company's equipment. Within a twenty-four hour period, he established a gunnery range complete with a company outpost, billeting area, maintenance area, fueling point, ammunition supply point and a command and control structure. Concurrently, after supervising 17-hour firing days, he returned to the company office to reconcile embarkation data and pack shipping containers. MSgt Hatfield efficiently accomplished all tasks without compromise, enabling the company to meet all training objectives ahead of schedule and enjoy an unplanned 48hr liberty period prior to deploying to Ft Irwin for a month-long training exercise.
Company D participated in a Mission Rehearsal Exercise (MRX) at the National Training Center, Ft Irwin, CA during March 2009. This unique training venue presented numerous challenges that MSgt Hatfield tackled with his trademark thoroughness. He led the inventory and joint limited technical inspection of 25 LAVs from two separate commands and supervised their preparation for a 120-mile road march from Twentynine Palms to Fort Irwin. Other companies relied heavily on MSgt Hatfield due to his previous experience as the battalion logistics chief and he willingly mentored and assisted his peers throughout the month-long training event. He also advised the newly appointed company commander who was inexperienced in LAR operations. MSgt Hatfield participated closely in the tactical planning and his input directly contributed the successful completion of several live-fire and maneuver ranges as well as the Full Spectrum Operations culminating exercise.
Redeploying in early April to Camp Lejeune, MSgt Hatfield set in motion a plan to support Block V of the Pre-Deployment Training Program continuum and prepare the company for an early May deployment date. The Military Operations on Urban Terrain package he helped develop became the backdrop venue for a visit by the Secretary of Defense, and the final gear inspections that he supervised ensured all personnel were ready for combat. When last minute troop level restrictions cancelled Co D's deployment orders, MSgt Hatfield volunteered to lead a small advanced party forward with the battalion command element in anticipation of an increased force cap. It was in this capacity that MSgt Hatfield single-handedly contributed directly to successful combat operations involving Co D and 2d LAR Bn.
The advanced party arrived at Forward Operating Base Leatherneck, Helmand Province, Afghanistan and discovered austere conditions unsuitable for follow on forces. With minimal life support and no equipment, MSgt Hatfield and two LCpls set to work preparing for the arrival of the remainder of Company D. Displaying the same boundless initiative and tireless work ethic demonstrated during three previous equipment transfers, MSgt Hatfield expertly received 25 LAVs, supervised SL-3 inventories, inspected maintenance readiness, and worked with the battalion ordnance officer to correct deficiencies prior to the company's arrival. His efforts enabled Co D to complete reception, staging, onward movement, and integration in a mere two weeks after their arrival, thereby allowing the battalion to meet the timelines of OPERATION KHANJARI. Without MSgt Hatfield's leadership and experience, it is unlikely that Co D and 2d LAR Bn would have met the bold mission requirements to conduct a lengthy cross-country movement and to seize the furthest south district center in the Helmand Province.
On the afternoon of 27 June 2009, Co D departed FOB Leatherneck for an attack position in the western desert. The company crossed the line of departure the following day and completed more than 200km of off-road movement at night. Co D accomplished this tactical movement with no mechanical breakdowns due in large part to MSgt Hatfield and his work during the joint limited technical inspection process. During the movement, he supervised several recovery operations in difficult terrain ensuring that the unit adhered to timelines established for the assault. Company D, the battalion main effort, seized the Khan Neshin district center in the early morning hours of 1 July 2009. MSgt Hatfield immediately organized the defense of the 300-year-old castle and directed efforts to improve the company position. Operating in 120-degree heat and without heavy equipment, he oversaw the transformation of a dilapidated fortress into a defensible position within less than 72 hours. Marines, under his supervision, constructed and reinforced three entry control points, the combat operations center, and living spaces for a myriad of civilian and other government agency personnel. In the span of a few short days, Co D nearly doubled in size as members of the Afghan National Security Forces, Provincial Reconstruction Team, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other organizations occupied the castle. MSgt Hatfield briefed these groups on the defensive plan and ensured all military and non-military occupants had access to adequate cover.
The enemy launched a series of counter attacks against the district center shortly after Co D seized the castle. During a seven-day period, defenders repulsed two combined arms attacks and withstood numerous rocket strikes within the compound with no casualties to coalition forces or their partners. Two 107-millimeter rockets impacted the COC and civilian living area during one of these rocket attacks. Despite the direct hits, there were no casualties and only minimal damage to critical equipment due in large part to the survivability and force protection measures MSgt Hatfield implemented. MSgt Hatfield quickly had the damaged area repaired and continued his aggressive force protection plan throughout the early days of July.
On the evening of 11 July 2009, MSgt Hatfield departed the company perimeter at Khan Neshin Castle on a combat logistics patrol to the battalion command post. MSgt Hatfield was the vehicle commander on his Light Armored Vehicle-Logistics variant and travelled as the second vehicle in the patrol. As the patrol passed a series of ruins seven kilometers from Khan Neshin Castle, the enemy attacked MSgt Hatfield's vehicle with a pressure-plate initiated improvised explosive device. The violent force from an estimated 80 pounds of bulk explosive sent the vehicle airborne and cause severe and irreparable damage to the hull, suspension, and drivetrain. The explosive energy from the blast also sent shrapnel flying through the vehicle and rendered three scouts traveling in the cargo compartment unconscious. The shrapnel and concussion effects of the explosion killed the driver instantly and severed both of MSgt Hatfield's legs. Although his own wounds were life threatening, MSgt Hatfield directed rescuers first to the driver before allowing them to remove him from the vehicle and continued to ask about the condition of his crew throughout the evacuation process. Despite rescue efforts and treatment by shock trauma doctors, MSgt Hatfield succumbed to his wounds on the medical evacuation helicopter.
MSgt Hatfield was a consummate professional who repeatedly proved invaluable to mission accomplishment during a challenging pre-deployment training period and difficult combat deployment. His exceptional efforts to organize, train, equip Company D directly contributed to the success of the battalion and his courageous combat leadership set the example for all to emulate. MSgt Hatfield's influence is still felt today and his commitment and self- sacrifice are deserving of recognition with the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for his heroic achievements.