Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee always wanted to be in the military. Influenced by Hollywood and his father’s service in Vietnam, Plumlee joined the Oklahoma National Guard while still in high school. With the help of a local sheriff, he joined the Marines after high school in the years before 9/11. Deployed to Okinawa, Plumlee spent the months after 9/11 longing to get into the action but missing his opportunities. Completing training as a reconnaissance Marine, Plumlee eventually deployed to Iraq with 4th Force Reconnaissance Company in 2005 and again in 2008.

Though he later received a Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan, Plumlee’s first experience with combat was decidedly less valorous. Despite years of training, including some of the most rigorous schools in the Marine Corps, Plumlee’s first gunfight was a shock. Here he tells that story and some of the things he learned as a young sergeant on a force reconnaissance team in Anbar province.

This is the first of two episodes with Plumlee. In the next episode, we’ll discuss his transition from the Marine Corps into the Army’s Special Forces pipeline and the events that led to his actions in Ghazni in 2013. You can listen to the conversation below, and you can also find it on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyTuneIn, or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe to The Spear so you don’t miss an episode, and while you’re there, please consider giving the podcast a rating and leaving a review to help new listeners find us!

Image credit: Lance Cpl. Colton Garrett