Veterinary mission morphs into lifesaving rescue
April 24, 2007
DIKHIL, Djibouti (Army News Service, April 24, 2007) - With only seconds to react, U.S. military members made a daring rescue April 14, pulling a young African man out of a raging torrent.
After a day of heavy rain, the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa team was assessing a river crossing site they planned to use the following day as part of a veterinary civic action program when they saw a man signaling frantically for help.
"As we drew close, it became obvious that the individual trying to flag down our vehicle was desperate," said Lt. Col. Joseph Gamble, mission commander. "After stopping and engaging the individual, the team was told that two people had been swept away by a flash flood."
The military members followed the swollen river in their vehicle until they came to a wide ditch that couldn't be driven across. Further down the river, they could see a crowd of people gathering so they continued following the river bank on foot.
"At this point we discovered that one of the individuals who had been swept away had been pulled to safety on a small partial of high ground in the middle of the raging torrent," said Col. Gamble. "The individual had sustained numerous injuries."
With a powerful current of water standing between them and the injured 19-year-old man, three military members, accompanied by a local Djiboutian, tethered themselves together with a rope and made their way into the river.
"At that moment, we weren't thinking about anything but rescuing the guy," said Sgt. Rovell Thomas, force protection for the VETCAP. "The scene was chaotic."
When they reached the stranded man, the team provided immediate aid and then Senior Airman Travis Manning placed the young man on his shoulders and, along with the help of his fellow servicemembers, brought him back across the swift-moving water.
"It was second nature," said Senior Airman Manning, a combat camera videographer. "We had to get him across the water to safety and my self-aid training kicked in. At that moment, I was working off sheer adrenaline."
Once on shore, Manning and Thomas carried the injured Djiboutian to a waiting vehicle that then took him to a local hospital. "At the hospital, the father of the injured youth continuously thanked those involved in the rescue," said Col. Gamble.
The news wasn't all good. Later that night, a search team found the body of the other individual.
"I'm glad we were there and able to help," said Col. Vic Adamson, 350th Civil Affairs Command Functional Specialty. "We were able to save a life that evening that may have otherwise been lost."
The mission of CJTF-HOA is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism. The CJTF-HOA organization began operations at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, May 13, 2003. It works with partner nations on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects.
(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Public Affairs.)