By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 9, 2009 - The fifth Army Reserve soldier to earn the Silver Star since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 spoke about his experience in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable July 6. Army Spc. David Hutchinson of the 420th Engineer Brigade discussed the actions that earned him the third-highest award for valor in combat. On May 21, 2008, Hutchinson said he and his fellow soldiers from the 420th Engineer Brigade were en route to Sharana, Afghanistan, in preparation for relieving the 36th Engineer Brigade when they were ambushed. "About the time all four trucks got into the mountain pass, that's when we came under fire," he said.
After the first truck returned fire using a .50-caliber machine gun, Hutchinson said, he saw 20 to 30 more insurgents on a ridge to the convoy's right.
"I started opening fire with my Mk-19 [grenade launcher], and I made it through ... about 44 of the 48 rounds in that ammo can, destroying as many fighting positions as I could," Hutchinson said. "As quickly as I could destroy one, more insurgents would pop up."
As the convoy fired back, the insurgents began firing rocket-propelled grenades.
"I counted no more than four RPGs that actually missed our truck within 10 or 15 feet," he said. "Then as soon as I slowed down to stop firing, as there was so much dust in front of me from all the explosions, our truck was struck by two RPGs."
The impact knocked Hutchinson from his turret into the truck.
"I went to get back up into the turret, but I couldn't feel from my waist down," he said. "So I rolled over to see if everyone else was all right. That's when I saw the first sergeant in the driver's side rear seat was bleeding pretty heavily from his face, and then his side."
Instead of administering first aid to himself, Hutchinson tried to help the first sergeant.
"I wasn't in any pain at that point, so I went ahead and started using my compression bandage and his compression bandage to try and control as much of the bleeding as possible," he said.
A few moments later, the convoy left the ambush area. When the soldiers arrived at the medical evacuation point several miles down the road, Hutchinson again showed his selflessness. "They had me on the litter at first, but I jumped off the litter and told them to put the first sergeant on the litter," he said.
Because of Hutchinson's courageous acts, all of the 17 men in the convoy survived the ambush.
Hutchinson was airlifted to his forward operating base, where he had the first surgery to remove shrapnel from his leg. "From my hip down, the whole right side of my leg was peppered with shrapnel," he recalled.
After multiple surgeries and months of recuperation, Hutchinson still can't run full-speed, but he is able to walk without problems. "I'm slowly getting back to my full capacity, as far as physical things go," he said.
Hutchinson will be married this month and will continue to serve in the 420th Engineer Brigade. He is likely to return to Afghanistan, if needed, in two years, he said.
Hutchinson received his Silver Star on June 6 from Army Col. James Doty, his brigade commander, on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)