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The phrase about modern combat, “months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror,” may have coined in the trenches of World War I, but this could not have been more accurate, the morning of June 21, 2014 in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sear Munoz struggled to get any sleep between an early morning turret watch and reverie that day. His unit received orders to put on flak and Kevlar tactical vest with the body armor plate and then they waited for the word to head out.
Munoz was part of a convoy of MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles driving through the small village of Habibabad for an early morning battalion operation when a car exploded about 10 feet to the rear of his vehicle.
“I was sitting in the back seat in front of the radio,” said Munoz. “The blast of the 300-pound car bomb knocked me out for what I was told was 10 seconds. The MRAP door blew off its hinges and struck me in the face. It felt like someone smacked me with a two-by-four.”
Munoz deployed with the 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Division (1/2) Alpha Company out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“I remember waking to the sound of a machine gun in one of the other trucks, it sounded like someone was smashing a hammer on a wooden table,” said Munoz. “The scent of firecrackers and burnt hair lingered the air, accompanied by moans and groans from the other guys in my truck. I asked my Marines if they were okay and then felt a sharp pain in my head and arm. I looked down and saw that my entire Kevlar plate carrier was covered in blood and more blood was beginning to cover my pants.”
Munoz’ unit was to provide security for the overall battalion operation to flush out any Taliban who were hiding and deny them the opportunity to conduct attacks on nearby Camp Bastion-Leatherneck.
“I heard someone from another truck yell ‘CORPSMAN’, said Munoz. “I couldn’t get out the back doors because they had been blown inward, so I threw my med bag to the front seat and began crawling over my guys to get out the front door.”
Munoz fell back on his A-School training. He had the presence of mind to shake off the fog of a concussion and dismiss the blood gushing down out of his broken nose, to respond and care for his injured Marine brothers.
“I saw a Marine on the ground who had pieces of shrapnel pierce his foot and his mouth,” said Munoz. “Our two snipers were injured. One had a fractured elbow and another stab-like injury that went to the bone in his leg. The other Marine sniper had lacerations on his head and arm and had a fractured skull. I triaged and treated the injuries as best I could before the Medivac helicopter arrived. I wanted to stay with my guys but my senior line corpsman told me to go back with the other wounded.”
“The helicopter transported us to the Bastion Hospital connected to Camp Leatherneck where we were treated. The commanding officer of Camp Leatherneck stopped by and asked about what happened and then told me, ‘It’s a rough way to earn the Purple Heart (medal), but you got it,’” said Munoz. “I did receive the medal and a part of me doesn’t think I deserve it because my injuries weren’t as severe as my Marines. The other guys were sent back to the States, but my nose and concussion got me stuck on light duty for a couple of weeks.”
Munoz, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, had been in the Navy since August 2010. He originally wanted to work in aviation rating, but the chance to get an ‘A’ School was too good to pass up.
After his time with the 1/2 (one-two) Marines, Munoz has been stationed at Naval Branch Health Clinic Mayport, Florida, onboard USS Decatur (DDG 73) homeported in San Diego, California and is now with Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Southwest as a Navy recruiter.
“The greatest thing the Navy has taught me is how to adapt quickly,” said Munoz. “Every duty station I have been stationed at are very different from each other, as far as the type of work environment and tasks I have been assigned. I have faced a few road blocks in my career, but I always been able to pick myself up and bounce back with my positive attitude.”
Even though only a recruiter for a short time at Navy Recruiting Station Mission Viejo, Munoz is thrilled to have another opportunity to adapt and flex different muscles in the Navy than as a Hospital Corpsman.
“I wanted a chance to try something new, to put myself in a position to succeed,” said Munoz. “I love that I can help someone achieve their goals and provide opportunities for them to succeed. I want to make sure the Navy is in good hands with plenty of quality replacements when it’s time for me to go.”
Born in Panama City, Panama, Munoz was part of a Navy family and got used to moving every few years. He joined the Navy right out of high school in Washington D.C. and has never regretted the decision.
“The Navy has provided me with pretty much everything I have. I grew up in a Navy household and not having any definitive plans after school, the Navy was a ‘no-brainer’ for me,” said Munoz. “Now as a recruiter, I have the chance to change a few lives for the better; to guide someone to the Navy who hasn’t found their path yet.”
Renamed in December 2020, NTAG Southwest encompasses 210,000 square miles covering Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. Headquartered at Naval Base Point Loma, NTAG Southwest has three Talent Acquisition Onboarding Centers (TAOC Fleet City, TAOC Surf City and TAOC Paradise City) managing 43 Navy Recruiting Stations and Navy Officer Recruiting Stations in the tri-state region and employs more than 300 recruiters, support personnel and civilians.
For more news from NTAG Southwest, visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/NRD-SanDiego or https://www.cnrc.navy.mil/pages-nrd/sandiego/default.html. Also you can follow the command on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ntagsw), Twitter (@NRD_SanDiego) and Instagram (@ntagsw).
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