Soldiers render aid to injured Djiboutians, earn Army Commendation Medal
Six U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from Alpha Company, 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, each received an Army Commendation Medal, Aug. 20, 2013, for their quick response to an accident scene, near Oheah, Djibouti, earlier this year.
The Soldiers were in two vehicles driving up a hill when they came across a pickup and semitruck that collided, said U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Wood, one of the award recipients.
"When we pulled up to the scene, there were several females with blood on their faces screaming and yelling," said Staff Sgt. David Andrus, another recipient. "So we pulled over and helped."
Andrus, the senior medic for the brigade, said he quickly set up a casualty collection point and assessed injuries; he noted several people with facial and body lacerations, a child passed out and a driver stuck in his truck that was wrapped around the front end of the diesel that hit him.
As Andrus evaluated the situation; the other Solders used their combat life saver bags, rendering first aid to the injured, said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Bylsma, Alpha Company operations officer. "We used all our resources and tried to take care of as many people as we could."
Shortly after triage began, U.S. Army Spc. Jack Zito, found a man eight or nine feet down a 40 foot drop off. The man had been thrown from the back of the semitruck and was stuck with a fractured femur.
Zito, Andrus and Spc. Jay Martello, climbed down to where the injured man was, splinted his broken leg and carried him back up the narrow hill. Once the man was safe, Andrus continued treating the other patients and then worked on the man who was stuck in the mangled truck.
Besides assessing, tending and monitoring patients, Andrus also noted environmental factors. These included the 40-foot drop off, the narrow road they were on, exposed wires and diesel fuel saturating the area. He ensured those issues didn't affect the safety of anyone at the scene; including the bystanders whose numbers increased from 15 to about 60 by the time Djiboutian officials arrived.
Andrus said these challenges made it difficult for the team to communicate, but they worked through the difficulties. He was impressed with how each member of the team found ways to help and did so with no hesitation.
The Soldiers attributed their competence to their annual Army training. "We had all undergone CLS and felt confident in applying first aid treatment until Djiboutian medics arrived," Bylsma said.
The team said they were equally impressed with how well Andrus took charge of the scene.
The battalion's leadership was proud of Alpha Company's actions and felt they represented the U.S. military very well, said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Patrick Woziak.
"Both myself and the commander feel they did an outstanding job," Woziak said. "They responded in an instant to a serious traffic accident and took actions to render first aid."
After Djiboutian officials took control of the scene, the Soldiers continued to help with loading patients into ambulances, and Zito helped apply two IVs to the injured.
Once the injured were secure, Alpha Company continued to their training. On the way back as they approached the scene, there were still people who witnessed the accident in the area. When they saw the Soldiers driving by they started cheering, "thank you America, thank you," Andrus said.
"My job isn't to just treat Soldiers; it's to treat anyone I come across," Andrus said. "It felt good to help out the local populous."
In general terms, civil affairs units act as an intermediary between local civilians and the military overseas and assists local governments in determining their needs.
The 415th is one of CJTF-HOA's units whose mission includes stabilizing and strengthening security in East Africa through military-to-military engagements with partner nations.