Enlistment and Basic Training

Interviewee: Matt Williamson

Born: June 23, 1979

Matt Williamson was born and grew up in Montpelier, Idaho. As a kid Matt always loved hunting and guns. In order to qualify for resident tuition rates at Utah State he moved to Logan, Utah. He admired his friend Taggert Gilles who was then in the process of joining the Marines. Matt saw Taggert after he had graduated from boot camp and decided he wanted to join the Marines too. His friend told him what to expect in boot camp so when it was his turn to go in October 1998 he was ready. He chose to join the Marine Reserves so that he could go on a LDS Church mission and attend college. He had barely enough time to check in with Fox Company before he served his Church mission in Birmingham, Alabama. He recalls the culture shock of going from his mission back to Reserve life at Fox Company. On 9/11 Matt remembers the  feelings of being sick to his stomach yet also excited to fight. His unit was activated in January 2002 and sent to Camp Pendleton in Southern California as part of a Quick Reaction Force. This period constituted what he would remember as the best and worst time of his life. After he returned from this deployment, it was not long before his unit was activated again in 2003. This time his unit was assigned to the 1st  Marine Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Matt talks about the preparations his unit made before arriving in Kuwait. He recalls being disoriented and often losing track of time after arriving in Kuwait. Once his unit was mobilized to enter Iraq a majority of his time was spent in the back of a 7-ton truck. He remembers seeing much of the early combat from the back of the truck but not participating much until his unit reached Baghdad. He describes the chaotic nature of the fighting in Baghdad and the eventual difficulty he had obeying many Marine cosmetic standards, such as keeping his hair trimmed, after the firefights had subsided. The remainder of his unit's tour was primarily spent establishing a security presence around Iraq. During this time Matt and his fellow Marines had a lot of downtime where they needed to find creative ways to entertain themselves.

Matt faced some challenges on his return home. He liked the opportunity to stay on active duty while adjusting back to civilian life however he experienced anger management problems. When he finally had an evaluation at the VA he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Regardless of the difficulties he faces since returning Matt is proud of his eight years in the Marines and wishes he could continue his service.