Marine Forces Europe and Africa


Marine Forces Europe and Africa

United States Marine Corps

USAG Stuttgart, Germany
No Better Friend: Crisis Response Marine recognized for heroism in Senegal

By 1st Lt. John McCombs | Marine Corps Forces Europe | January 28, 2016


Sergeant Matthew Sprankle, a mortarman with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa was awarded the Marine Corps Medal for saving a local man from drowning in Dakar, Senegal, last August at Morón Air Base, Spain, Jan. 26 .

Sprankle received the Navy and Marine Corps medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded for heroism by the Department of the Navy, from Maj. Gen. Niel Nelson, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.

“You couldn’t ask for a finer tribute to [SPMAGTF] than the ceremony for Sgt. Sprankle,” said Nelson, “[His actions] really put a fine touch on SPMAGTF’s capabilities. They do everything and they also have some fantastic Marines in their ranks.”

Sprankle recalled the ordeal on August 28, 2015 down in Senegal.

“I was out to eat one night with a bunch of the other guys and it started to get dark and then we heard some screaming from the water… So we went to check it out and it just happened to be [someone] struggling to stay afloat.” Said Sprankle, “I noticed there was actually another local national that tried to go out there and get him and he made it about halfway and just decided to turn around and go back so I was just like ‘alright well I guess I’ve got to go get him.’ So I just grabbed the buoy and hopped in and swam out there, stuffed it in his chest and drug him back.”

Sprankle was in Senegal to conduct partner-nation training with the Senegalese military and had actually been conducting swim assessments with Senegalese military personnel.

“I had just finished [Marine Corps Water Survival Training] about a month before that so I’d been swimming constantly for a solid three weeks; my conditioning was good. I also had all the information that I needed as far as what to do in certain situations so it definitely paid off,” Sprankle said.

The effects on Senegalese-American relations that this particular action had were not lost on Sprankle, especially since one of the missions of SPMAGTF-CR-AF is to strengthen foreign partnerships.

“Word got to the U.S. Ambassador and even the Senegalese military; it definitely helped strengthen our relationship with them because I was willing to risk my life to save somebody in a foreign country that I didn’t know.”

While extremely appreciative of the award, Sprankle explained that his actions are simply indicative of the bond he has formed with his team on deployment.

“I don’t really do anything for awards. I really don’t. It’s not really something that I’ve ever been big on. I do stuff for other people, like my Marines, that’s really what I care about more than anything.”

The Marines are postured in Europe in support of U.S. Africa Command and conduct theater security events with partner nations in Africa, improving capabilities and maintaining relationships with host nation militaries and communities.