Air Force Sergeant Leads Rescue Effort in Djibouti
A U.S. Air Force staff sergeant assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Contingency Contracting Office helped save a truck driver's life the afternoon of May 1 while en route to his assigned location on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and was recently awarded a Joint Service Achievement Medal.
"After completing a mission in nearby Kontali, I was driving back (to camp) with my team after our site visit," said Staff Sergeant Cameron Anderson. "As I drove up the hill and around a turn, I stopped because traffic wasn't moving."
Unable to see why, Anderson got out of his car to investigate, he said.
"I saw a tanker truck rolled over onto its passenger side," the sergeant said. "There were 20 or 30 people watching from the top of the hill and someone said to me, 'go see, go see.'
"At first I thought the semi that was there with a cable connected to it was trying to flip it, but it was actually trying to recover the collapsed cab to release the (trapped) driver," he added. "As I got closer I looked in and saw the driver through the sunroof. He was bleeding and screaming."
Realizing the driver needed medical care, Anderson went to his aid, despite knowing the diesel fuel streaming from the top of the truck made the situation potentially deadly for both of them.
"My first concern was whether or not the driver was injured badly enough to bleed out," he said, "but his bleeding wasn't arterial -- nothing bright red. I saw some lacerations on his ear and that his calf was trapped under the steering column."
As Anderson applied his self-aid buddy care know-how to give a basic assessment of the driver's injuries, he noted the leaking fuel was steadily flowing down the hill and past the cab of the truck.
"It's possible he (the injured driver) might have seen (the fuel)," he said, "but it was audible, like the 'glug' sound of a tipped-over water bottle.
"Using a crow bar, a Djiboutian and I pried the steering column to get his leg out," Anderson added. "It didn't seem to be working, but eventually he slipped free."
Thanks to Anderson's military training, composure and quick thinking, the rescue was a success.
"As I was pulling him out of the sunroof, he went limp on me, I guess in relief."
Finally free, the crowd put the driver on a stretcher and took him to an awaiting ambulance.
U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Curran, CJTF-HOA CCO chief of contracts, met Anderson as he walked back down the hill after the rescue.
"As I heard the account of what happened," Curran said, "I realized he had simply reacted, followed his training, and was focused on helping the driver."
For his actions, Anderson was awarded a Joint Service Achievement Medal that was presented to him during a ceremony on Camp Lemonnier June 5.
"This was a selfless act," Curran said. "It earned him, and by extension the U.S., the respect of the local population near Dikhil. I am very proud to have him on my team."