By Air Force Capt. David Tomiyama
Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team
KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 18, 2011 – For Army Staff Sgt. Chris Ackley, civil affairs team sergeant for the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team at Combat Outpost Sabari here, long hours of practicing medical procedures proved to be time well spent.
Ackley, a native of Beaver Dam, Wis., helped to provide medical care to an Afghan woman who suffered a gunshot wound during a firefight between insurgents and U.S. forces in the province’s Sabari district July 6.
The medic who treated the woman said the immediate aid she received from Ackley was critical to her survival.
For his actions, Ackley received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Achievement in a July 12 ceremony.
“I am pleased with Staff Sergeant Ackley’s actions in aiding the injured Afghan woman,” said Navy Cmdr. Brad Brewer, the provincial reconstruction team’s commander. “He fell back on his training and saved her life. I am honored to have the opportunity to recognize his truly heroic act.”
The mission that day for Ackley and a Task Force Duke infantry team of the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, was to attend a high school graduation in Sabari district. The soldiers had hoped to talk with the headmaster of the school, parents, local elders and religious leaders about security and a recent community conference.
During the discussion, their vehicles came under attack. The team began making its way back to its trucks, questioning villagers along the way on what they knew of the attack.
Moving through an open area, the team came under small-arms fire. The firefight lasted around 10 minutes with no injuries to team personnel, but the soldiers received a report of a civilian who had been injured by insurgent gunfire. The team’s combat medic ran ahead to help. When Ackley and the rest of the team arrived, he immediately started to assist the medic in aiding the 36-year-old victim.
As her lung began to fill with fluid, the duo put a chest seal on the wound, performed a needle decompression and started administering fluids. They monitored her vital signs, rolled her to her side for easier breathing and called for a medical transport.
Villagers initially resisted the idea of the woman being airlifted for further treatment, but once they realized that she needed surgery to live and that a family member could go with her, they agreed, and coalition forces flew the patient to Forward Operating Base Salerno.
The actions by the medic and Ackley were captured on video, and when they had a chance to review the scene, they realized how well they worked together.
“It was like we’d been working together for 10 years,” Ackley said. “[The medic] said I played the perfect noncommissioned officer role.”
Ackley said his training as an emergency medical technician with the Beaver Dam Fire and Rescue Department and as an Army medic allowed him to stay calm and provide the aid needed for his first gunshot wound victim.
“I didn’t think I deserved the award, just because for the fact that it is my job and I would do it again,” Ackley said. “But I’m grateful that I did, and it shows that people appreciate what we do out there.”