Field artillery Soldiers receive CABs, medic receives CMB
December 23, 2012
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FARAH, Afghanistan - On Nov. 4, Soldiers of Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment received a call over their radios that a key-leader engagement in the Farah Province they were providing security for had ended.
However, that would only be the beginning of the events for that day and would end with 12 soldiers earning Combat Action Badges and one soldier earning his Combat Medic Badge.
Moments after the meeting was over, Spc. Michael Jones, a cannon crew member with the Battery's personal security detachment from Belleville, Ill., heard a sound he described as a smacking sound, like a rock hitting another rock.
An unknown man had thrown a grenade over a wall of the compound. Luckily, most of the men in Jones' squad were behind a vehicle.
"You could feel the shockwave and everything right into your chest," Jones said. "In that moment, you realized this is real."
Jones' first reaction was to check himself and those around him for any injuries caused by the blast. He found all the U.S. soldiers around him were shaken, but unharmed.
"Unfortunately it exploded with a local national standing right over top of it," Jones explained. "But (Spc. Nkelo Kurtz) ran in, did a great job (and) actually saved the guy's life."
Kurtz, a medic attached to B Battery, was in a vehicle when the incident happened. After the PSD cleared the area, Kurtz was called on to help the man who had been wounded by the grenade.
What he saw on his way to help the man was a grisly sight.
"I was looking around I saw the guy scooting across the ground, trying to get inside the building," Kurtz said. "He was leaving trails of blood from both his legs, a big puddle. It went all the way to the building, maybe about a hundred feet."
He then followed the attendees of the meeting into a nearby building where they placed the wounded man into a small, closet-like room.
The Afghan man had shrapnel wounds to his lower legs and back, according to Kurtz.
In his nearly two and a half years as a medic, Kurtz said he had never really treated anyone in a situation like one he found himself in that day.
"I deal with the consequences later; I really can't freak out," Kurtz explained. "If I freak out, the patient's going to freak out."
Kurtz applied tourniquets to the man's legs to prevent any further blood loss and applied a chest seal.
"I've done so many drills of the same thing over and over and over again that I just saw it as another drill," Kurtz said.
While the medic worked on the wounded Afghan, Jones and his squad were also doing what had been drilled into their heads since basic training.
"When everything happened, the training immediately kicked in," said Jones, explaining that as a senior specialist and having a leadership position, he now saw and understood all the things that his noncommissioned officers before him would repetitiously pound into his head were not in vain. "So when it does happen, you don't think about it, you just react and go."
For Kurtz, he was surprised to learn he was receiving his CMB.
According to Army regulation, "The sole criteria that qualifies medical personnel for award of the CMB is to be assigned to or attached to an infantry unit engaged in active ground combat."
The same regulation also states that in order to qualify for a CAB, a soldier must perform his or her "assigned duties in an area where hostile fire pay or imminent danger pay is authorized and must be personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy and performing satisfactorily in accordance with the prescribed rules of engagement."
The soldiers' quick reactions that day saved a man's life and reflected how all of the training they had conducted until that point had paid off.