Veterans Day: Answering the call of duty
This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Cross & Crescent Magazine.
Perhaps Jamie Sclater’s strongest attribute is his versatility. It’s his versatility that has equipped him for combat scenarios in four tours of duty and has helped him progress in the Navy from a sailor to a corpsman to a Marine Sniper.
Before Sclater joined the Navy he was an undergraduate at Elon University where he was a member of the Delta-Pi chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha and served as the social chair. After graduating, Sclater worked as a bartender in Elon, North Carolina.
He eventually moved to Virginia Beach and became roommates with a Navy SEAL named Jon. The two became friends and Sclater was inspired by Jon’s stories of military life.
“I always wanted some purpose. I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally every day and I wasn’t getting that as a bartender. I’ve always been spontaneous and one day I was just fed up and decided to join up,” he said.
After enlisting, Sclater would experience a rapid progression through various roles in the Navy. Sclater first became a Navy corpsman after completing Hospital Corpsman Training. He then went on to serve as a corpsman with the Marines in Afghanistan after finishing Field Medicine School.
Next, Sclater was presented with a unique opportunity. A spot had opened up for a corpsman in a Marine sniper platoon. Sclater had to try out for the Battalion Scout Sniper platoon and earned the spot. Sclater’s next accomplishment would be becoming a Marine Sniper. To earn the Marine Corps sniper designator, he was the only corpsman to go through grueling sniper school.
The 32-year-old Sclater has a diverse military background and his position as both a Navy corpsman and a Marine sniper is extremely rare in the military.
Sclater has been through four tours of duty: as a grunt corpsman in Afghanistan in 2006, an Assistant Sniper Team Leader in Iraq in 2007, a trauma corpsman and anesthesia technician in Afghanistan in 2009, and a lead petty officer in Afghanistan last year. During this last tour of duty Sclater had an administrative role where he oversaw the operations of 65 grunt corpsmen fighting alongside Marines.
Sclater has made it one of his goals to bestow the versatility that he has gained on the individuals that are in his corps. He believes that each Marine needs to have the skill-set to save lives, operate a radio, and engage in combat.
“Marines need to be versatile. If your radio operator goes down, somebody else better know how to use that radio. If someone needs medical attention and the medic goes down, you are in a world of hurt,” he said. “If you don’t know how to shoot, you are in a world of hurt.”
“You must be versatile.”
During Sclater’s third tour of duty, his versatility and ability to adapt to difficult situations earned him the Army Commendation Medal. While working at Camp Bastion Role III Multinational Medical Unit in Helmand, Afghanistan, in 2009, a serious mishap occurred. Halfway through Sclater’s tour, a British team of doctors switched with a Danish team, but there was no one to replace the British anesthesia technicians who left.
Relying on volunteer experience with anesthesia during a previous tour, Sclater was able to assist with over 200 surgical procedures ranging from simple gunshot wounds to appendectomies to multiple amputations and serious burns.
Sclater remembers the seven month tour of duty as the most complete he’s ever experienced. Even with the intense environment around him Sclater was able to bond with his team and knew he was making a significant difference by saving lives.
“It was because of those brotherly and sisterly bonds that we were able to forget about all of the trauma around us,” he said. “It was just a humbling experience to be a part of.”
In the eight years since Sclater graduated from Elon and left the Delta-Pi chapter, he has made significant strides as a young enlisted soldier. In light of these strides, Elon University recognized him with the Top 10 Under 10 Award, an acknowledgment of what successful young alumni can receive from Elon. He has also received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
Sclater looks back at his undergraduate experience at Elon and compares his time in the Navy with that of Lambda Chi Alpha. The two organizations are similar in structure, and military men and women experience the same bonding as do Lambda Chi Alpha brothers.
“You eat, sleep, and breathe together. You know everything about the guy next to you, what makes him laugh and what sets him off, but you also know you are going to cover his back no matter what, and he is going to die trying to doing the same for you,” Sclater said.
Sclater is currently in a transition in his life. He is quickly approaching the 10-year mark in the military and is trying to decide what path to pursue next. He is attempting to get in shape for a clandestine special operations support element, but he is limited in keeping up with the physical demands of this new position by medical issues he incurred from his time in the Navy.
“All these things have compiled over the years, from hiking up the mountains in Afghanistan to sniper school, and it’s kind of holding me back from pursuing what I want to do,” he said.
Regardless of Sclater’s future, he is pleased with the versatility that the Navy has offered him in the past eight years.
“It has been the completely different experiences during each of my four tours that have molded me and my men into the Marines and Navy men we are today. I would not trade these experiences for anything in the world,” he said.