NCO's action saves Soldier's life
October 21, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 21, 2011 -- Just past 6 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 9, very few people were inside the III Corps Shoppette on T.J. Mills Boulevard. Staff Sgt. Timothy Warden stopped in to buy some ice and soft drinks on the way to work.
"I was getting ready to go to the range," he said. "We had a unit preparing to train on urban operations."
Inside the shoppette something strange happened.
"In my 15-and-a-half years in the Army," Warden said, "this is the first time I've come across something like this."
The staff sergeant, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade, Division West, noticed another patron having issues with the cashier.
"He was in line in front of me trying to buy a pack of cigarettes," Warden recalled Oct. 11. "The cashier wouldn't sell him any because he didn't have his ID. He smelled of alcohol, and I suggested he leave."
Then the situation changed quickly.
"The Soldier said, 'Hey sergeant, once you finish here can I talk to you?'" Warden said. "I thought at the time maybe he needed a ride home, or was going to ask me for money to buy cigarettes." Warden made his purchase and stopped to listen to the Soldier, who Warden guessed was in his early 20s. He noticed something else.
"He was looking pretty rough. He looked like he'd gotten into a fight. I noticed scratches on his arms, and I asked him who he got into a fight with, and he answered, 'I'm done,'" Warden said. "He kept saying that -- 'I'm done.'"
Warden said he told the young Soldier to call his roommate, to get him home safely.
"As I got ready to leave, he said, 'I just reenlisted, but I'm done, if you know what I mean?'" Warden said. It was then that his Army training kicked in -- the ACE model for suicide prevention: Ask, Care and Escort.
"It took awhile for it to click," he said, "but when it did, I knew this guy needed some help."
Warden called the military police and kept an eye on the Soldier until they arrived.
"Once the MPs arrived, I didn't need to stick around," he said. "I was told later they took him to the hospital."
Fort Hood leaders, who are alerted to every suicide ideation by Soldiers, contacted Warden Oct. 12.
"Wednesday, I got a call from the deputy commanding general's aide, and I thought, 'Oh my God, what did I do?'" Warden recalled. What Fort Hood leaders did was invite him to meet Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, in his office Oct. 14, who commended him for his alert actions in aid of a fellow Soldier in need of help.
"It is the observant, proactive deeds of folks like Staff Sgt. Warden who save lives every day," Campbell wrote in a Facebook entry Friday. "Staff Sgt. Warden noticed a troubled Soldier at a shoppette; he intervened to see what the issue was. Upon talking with the Soldier, Staff Sgt. Warden knew he was in trouble; he kept the Soldier at the shoppette and called for help."
"It is because of Staff Sgt. Warden's quick actions that a Fort Hood team member is getting the help he needs and deserves," Campbell continued. "We all must have the courage to help a buddy. One preventable death of America's finest -- our service members -- is one too many."
Warden said he was humbled to meet the post's commanding general, and more than a little nervous.
"When there's that much brass around, I'm always nervous," he admitted, "but it felt good."
The most important thing, Warden said, is that a young Soldier is getting help and his family has been spared the loss of a loved one.
"I saved his mom the heartache of somebody coming to her door in Class As telling her she'd lost her son," he said. "No one wants that."
Warden said mandatory training he's received was instrumental in handling that early Sunday morning situation.
"I had a job to do and somewhere to go, but in the end, I'm glad I stuck around to talk to this individual," he said. "If your battle buddy is hurting in any way, you know how to go out and get him some help."