Sunday, May 21, 2006

family pride

May 18, 2006

For Immediate Release



North Dakota Soldiers Save Iraqi Teenager From Drowning

By Kent Mathis, Public Affairs
Missouri Army National Guard

IRAQ - On May 1, 2006, soldiers from the 110th Engineer Battalion did their part to win the hearts of a local Iraqi family. Two brave Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 164th Engineer Battalion from the state of North Dakota, attached to the 110th Engineer Battalion in Iraq, dove into a local canal to save a young Iraqi teenager from drowning.

For the Soldiers of A/164, Route Clearance Operations is their job. They leave the safety of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and look for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that have been placed along the sides of the roads in Iraq. Often, their missions require them to travel near and, sometimes, through local Iraqi villages. However, on this mission, the Soldiers were preparing to cross a canal when they observed an older Iraqi man and a youth frantically waving their arms. As the Soldiers stopped and began scanning the area for any other signs of trouble, they observed another Iraqi youth in the canal, drowning in the swiftly-flowing water.

The Soldiers immediately went into action and secured the area. One Soldier, Spc. Kyle Mueller, Minot, N.D. did something that was not in his training.

As the driver for Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Kris Neset, Spc. Mueller drove to the canal so that 1st Lt. Neset, also from Minot, could evaluate the situation. When he observed that a child was drowning, Spc. Mueller took action.

As he would say later, “It was like a switch had gone off in my head. I sped up to where the other vehicles were parked and asked 1st Lt. Neset if I could take off my armor.” With little regard for his personal safety, Spc. Mueller, who had received Red Cross Lifesaver certification while working as a lifeguard in Minot, N.D., removed his personal protective equipment and dove into the water. He swam to where the youth had last been seen and began diving to find him. He would later say that the water was so murky, he could only see a few inches past his face. As he came up for air in preparation for another dive, Spc. Mueller stated that he felt that if he didn’t find the boy soon, he wouldn’t survive.

Spc. Mueller was being directed by Spc. David VanVoorhis, Minot, who, as gunner on the RG 31, had a clear view of where the boy had gone under the water. When Spc. Mueller surfaced with the boy’s body, another Soldier, Sgt. Guy Stevens, Minot, shed his protective gear as well and dove into the water to help. Together they began to swim towards the shore with the boy in tow. Sgt. Stevens noticed the boy did not appear to be breathing and that he was turning blue.

Once they reached the shore, they encountered a steep bank. With the swift-flowing current and the added weight of their uniforms, the Soldiers were in desperate need of help getting the boy to safety.

Without hesitation, other Soldiers, including Sgt. Jeffrey Simek, Bismarck, and Petty Officer Kenneth Simpson, from a Navy explosive ordinance disposal team who was working with the route clearance teams, stepped into the water and formed a human chain to bring the soldiers and the boy ashore.

Once ashore, the Soldiers laid the boy face down on the ground and began to force the water out of his lungs. As the boy began to cough and show signs of recovery, the Soldiers sat with the boy until he was fully conscious. The Soldiers then donned their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and returned to their vehicles.

In a demonstration of their dedication to duty, the Soldiers continued on with the mission, still wearing their wet, dirty uniforms.

As 1st Lt. Neset later stated, “The weirdest thing about the event was that a few minutes after saving the boy, we got back in our vehicles and patrolled for another 7 hours. We never did get the kid’s name.”

When later asked if they felt like heroes or if they had done something miraculous, the Soldiers were unfazed by the whole event. Spc. Mueller stated, “At the time, it just seemed like it came automatically, like I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing. I’m just glad he’s okay. If you would have ever told me that I would be saving a boy from drowning in the desert, I would have slapped you in the face for being so crazy. It really was the right place at the right time.”

When asked about his Soldier’s performance, 1st Lt. Neset stated, “I had the easy job. I just told Spc. Mueller to go into the water. That Iraqi boy will remember that day for the rest of his life. Hopefully, he’ll tell others about the good work done by Coalition Forces.”

The Soldiers of the 110th Engineer Battalion are willing and ready to get the job done. As Command Sgt. Maj. Will Pierce, a witness to the events, stated, “Today a family is celebrating the life of a child instead of preparing for a funeral, thanks to American Soldiers.”

1 Comments:

At 5/22/06, 4:54 PM, Blogger mdog said...

wow. proud indeed.

 

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