Sgt Justin E Schmalstieg
  • 28 years old
  • Date of birth: May 16, 1982
  • Date of passing: Dec 15, 2010
Let the memory of Sgt Justin be with us forever

The job of clearing the path belonged to Staff Sgt. Justin E. Schmalstieg 28, an experienced bomb disposal technician from Camp Pendleton who was on his fourth tour of duty.

Schmalstieg's skills were such that he was chosen to demonstrate them in Marine training videos and during a visit last year by the Marines Corps commandant to the base near Oceanside.

"Justin knew that his work was dangerous, obviously, but he also knew that he had a very important job and that accidents could be avoided through knowledge and training," his mother, Deborah Gilkey, said recently. "He was realistic, but he focused on what needed to be done."

On the night of Dec. 15 Schmalstieg was focused on getting his unit to safety when a misstep set off an explosion that killed him.

"It was difficult but necessary for them to move before dawn," Gilkey said, describing her son's last mission. "It was said that Justin's work that day ultimately saved the lives of many Marines."

Schmalstieg was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan when he died. He had served three tours in Iraq after enlisting in 2001 and was promoted to the rank of gunnery sergeant after his death.

His mother, who like his father is a Pittsburgh police detective, said the military offered Schmalstieg direction, especially at first. Later, as he continued to serve, "he found that EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] required the diligence and skills which put his natural strengths and interests to work," his mother said.

Schmalstieg belonged to the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton.

His bomb disposal skills were noted last April in The Convoy, a weekly publication at the base. A helmeted Schmalstieg is pictured lying on his belly in fatigues and a flak vest, working on a buried device. The photograph accompanied a story about exercises at the base during a visit by Gen. James T. Conway, who was then the Marine commandant.

During his off hours, Schmalstieg found a spiritual home at St. Margaret Catholic Church in Oceanside, the community where he lived after marrying in late 2009. He attended Mass each morning before heading to work on the base, and he and his wife spent time each week going door-to-door in the parish, inviting lapsed Catholics back to church and introducing the faith to those interested, said Father Cavana Wallace, the parish priest.

The love of Justin's life is his wife Ann and enjoyed spending all his
free time with her; whether taking long drives in his crx, working on
their house or Crossfit. He enjoyed scuba diving and spending time
with friends & family.

All Medals Received
Purple Heart, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Combat Action
Ribbon (x2), Iraq Campaign Medal (x2), Afghan Campaign Medal, Good
Conduct Medal (x3), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (x5), Global War on
Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal,
Korean Defense Medal, National Defense Service Medal & ISAF NATO Medal

All Awards Received
Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation


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