BLT 1/6 remembers fallen Marine in Afghanistan

18 May 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

Standing six foot seven inches tall and weighing a muscular 270 pounds, Cpl. Ronald R. Payne Jr. had a hard time fitting through the rear hatch of his light armored vehicle (LAV).Yet for more than four years he did just that during numerous training exercises, combat in Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and on the desolate landscape of Afghanistan with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, the ground combat element of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).It was on this final battlefield, on a barren hillside near the village of Sahmardun Ghar, that Cpl. Payne was mortally wounded in a firefight with Taliban forces, leaving a void not only in the lives of his family and close friends, but all those in the 22d MEU (SOC).Known affectionately to his friends as 'Big Payne,' the 23-year-old Lakeland, Florida native's demeanor severely contradicted his otherwise intimidating stature. Gregarious and good-natured, Payne is remembered also as somewhat shy around women and a music lover.On the afternoon following Payne's death, Marines from BLT 1/6 gathered on the spot where their friend had fallen to honor his memory."His proficiency at his job was only surpassed by his love of it," eulogized Sgt. Shiloh Cash, another scout team leader in BLT 1/6's light armored reconnaissance platoon. "He always looked for ways to better himself and other Marines. He was a teacher to all of the scouts, a natural leader."Payne was killed as he was leading his scout section on a combat patrol in south-central Afghan province of Oruzgan. Two other Marines and a Sailor were wounded in the intense fight, and at least four Taliban insurgents were killed.About his sacrifice, BLT 1/6's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Asad A. Khan, said that the young Marine's death was not in vain."We must all pull together and support one another," Khan said. "Ron and his fellow Marines inflicted a severe blow upon the enemy and stopped future attacks on coalition forces and innocent civilians.""Ron will always be remembered," Cash said as he brought his memorial remarks to a close. "He will always be in our minds and our hearts."BLT 1/6's forward operating base, formerly named FOB Indianhead after the unit's logo, was renamed FOB Payne on May 12.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit