War on Terrorism

Friday, February 21, 2014

California National Guard Soldiers awarded medals for valor in Afghanistan

Click photo for screen-resolution imageBy 1st Lt. Antonia Elena Pearse
411th Engineer Brigade

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan (2/21/14) - Two California Soldiers have been honored for saving two battle buddies last fall.
Members of the 216th Mobility Augmentation Company, a California National Guard unit, were serving under the 365th Engineer Battalion while deployed.

Almost immediately after dismounting Sept. 16, 2013, to conduct deliberate clearance operations, 216th's 1st Platoon received two casualties: one soldier shot in the leg and the other in the chest.

Part of the dismount team became pinned down while returning fire and was unable to render buddy aid to control the bleeding.

Focusing only on saving their battle buddies, the 216th MAC combat medic, Cpl. Christopher Garland, of Upland, Calif., and Staff Sgt. Martin Krebs, of Las Vegas, risked their lives to save their comrades as they raced out from their covered positions. Garland, along with another combat medic from the 216th MAC, Staff Sgt. Laurence Jeffery, treated the two casualties while the other Soldiers provided suppressive fire.

"Everyone did exactly what they needed to do," said 1st Lt. Minkyu Park, the 216th MAC platoon leader. "The enemy has all the time in the world. That day the enemy noticed a weakness in our formation and tried to take advantage of it. My Soldiers reacted to the situation and executed what they needed to do perfectly."

Still taking fire, Garland led the litter team back to the vehicles so they could facilitate the movement of the two wounded Soldiers to the landing zone, where a helicopter would arrive and take the wounded to the hospital. Garland assisted in setting up the landing zone and verified their location and casualties to the flight medics. Upon returning back to base, Garland assisted in the care of the casualties.

"All I was thinking about was the objective," Garland said. "Get the wounded to safety — training kicked in, and I just acted. The gunners were returning fire, Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Delgado, Cpl. Rodrigo Ceja and Staff Sgt. Lawrence Suyashi, all 216th MAC, helped me carry the litter. Everyone acted the way they were supposed to; unit cohesion was perfect."

Due to his heroic actions, Garland has been awarded with an Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device, for valor, and the Combat Medic Badge. All Soldiers on the patrol that day received a Combat Action Badge.

Following the engagement event, everyone returned to the Forward Operating Base alive.

"I'm thankful for my non-commissioned officers who are always adapting and overcoming. I'm thankful for Soldiers who are always motivated," Park said. "I am also on edge. We are only halfway through our deployment, and I don't want complacency setting in."

During mobilization training, conducted prior to deployment, rehearsing possible situations during a mission were emphasized. Soldiers trained on everything from procedures for route clearance patrols and reacting to fire, to resiliency education to improve post-mission mental stability

When Soldiers are in an extremely stressful situation, like a firefight, they will fight as they have been trained. The more intense the training, the more prepared the Soldier will be to react; whether it is on a deployment or garrison mission.

"Training always pays off," Park said. "The soldiers might not have used a specific individual task during that firefight, but the trust and teamwork that these men have learned from each other during all the training we've had to do was essential".

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