NCO reacts quickly, averts tragedy
March 24, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Staff Sgt. Ruben Rios only had a few seconds to react. Faced with a dropped live hand grenade, Rios relied on his training and in turn prevented what could have been a tragic event for a Soldier-in-training and him.
Rios, a cadre member at Remagen hand grenade range, was the instructor in a bay March 9 when a female Soldier bungled the steps in throwing a hand grenade and ended up dropping it by their feet.
"Once I realized the grenade was going in the pit I grabbed her, threw her over the wall and jumped on top of her," Rios said. "She didn't know what had happened, but she was safe, I was safe and everything thing was OK. It's my job."
Rios, who has been an instructor at the range for about two years, credits his training for the quick reaction to averting a potentially fatal accident.
"You can see in a Soldier's face if (he or she) is nervous and she was," he said. "It was just like any other day out here. But instead of a drill, it was for real."
Cadre at the range go through a 40-hour certification course every six months to stay on top of their skills. They also practice for a variety of emergency scenarios every day.
"After that spoon flies off the grenade you have between three and five seconds, and there is no way to stop the explosion," said Lt. Col. Richard MacDermott, commander of the 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, the unit to which Rios is assigned. "When the Soldier was given the command to remove the safety clip, she continued to thumb the grip and failed to follow the proper commands and signals. The grenade basically fell on the ground."
Remagen is one of the two most dangerous ranges on the installations, MacDermott said, with the other being Omaha, a live-fire range where Soldiers practice buddy-team movement.
"The incident that happened validates the training and safety program at Remagen," MacDermott said. "Now we just have to replace concrete instead of patching somebody up or having a funeral."
This is not the first time a Soldier in training has made a potentially deadly mistake while throwing a live grenade at Remagen. In July 2009, a cadre member was credited with stopping a Soldier who was about to throw a grenade into a neighboring bay.
At Remagen, Soldiers go through intensive instruction on the mechanics of a M67 hand grenade, including its safety features, proper grip and throwing technique. They throw dummy grenades before qualifying to throw two live hand grenades.
"These young men and women are extremely nervous. They have never handled explosives before, and this is all new to them," MacDermott said. "They understand the dangers, but they haven't been inoculated for that stress."
MacDermott said he planned to nominate Rios for an award for his actions.
"You have a staff sergeant that is out there every day doing this. It would be very easy for them to get complacent. We have to make sure we train so much that we train complacency out of existence," MacDermott said. "The fact he was able to keep the Soldier from performing actions that would have them injured, or worse, is worthy of (recognition)."