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Captain arrives at Parris Island, picks up a Bronze Star

Capt. Richard H. Fohn, right, is awarded the Bronze Star by Col. Eric Mellinger, left, during a ceremony Thursday afternoon at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Fohn was awarded the medal for conducting pre-deployment training and combat operations with the Afghan National Army.
Capt. Richard H. Fohn, right, is awarded the Bronze Star by Col. Eric Mellinger, left, during a ceremony Thursday afternoon at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Fohn was awarded the medal for conducting pre-deployment training and combat operations with the Afghan National Army. BOB SOFALY | The Beaufort Gazette

Capt. Richard Fohn really knows how to make a first impression.

A little more than two weeks after arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, the 29-year-old Texan marched in front of his new colleagues and his superiors Thursday afternoon and had the Bronze Star pinned to the lapel of his camouflage service uniform. Fohn received the medal for his work during a recent deployment to Afghanistan.

"It's quite a deal," Fohn said. "I kind of wanted to stay under the radar, but I guess I'll just roll with it. It's a little more attention that I would have wanted, but it feels good to show up and make a good impression."

Fohn will be working at Parris Island as a 3rd Recruit Battalion series commander and will oversee the training of between 120 and 350 recruits.

The depot is lucky to have Fohn training would-be Marines as he did the Afghan National Army, said Lt. Sharon Hyland, depot spokeswoman.

"When he was in Afghanistan, Capt. Fohn was mentoring and advising the Afghan National Army, and here at Parris Island, he'll be doing the same thing with the future of the Marine Corps," Hyland said.

In helping to train would-be Marines, Fohn said he often calls upon the experiences gained training the Afghans.

"Patience is the biggest thing," he said. "I have these two pictures of a soldier that we worked with. The first one was at the beginning and he looks like Rambo. He has ammo across his chest and is using really poor weapons safety techniques. The second one was at the end and he looks like a regular soldier. They got better every single day. It was a great experience."

The medal is the military's fourth-highest decoration, behind only the commendation medals for each service, the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor. It can be awarded for acts of valor or, in Fohn's case, for meritorious service.

From November 2008 to August 2009, Fohn was the executive officer of Marines training a battalion of Afghan soldiers, according to the award citation.

Fohn was credited with "capably guiding and mentoring his Afghan counterparts, (preparing) them for numerous combat patrols and operations resulting in successful counterinsurgency operations," the citation said.

"I was just one guy on a 21-man team," Fohn said. "Those other guys did as much as I did or more. This award is a testament to how much we really got done over there."

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