By Mr. Andy Entwistle (Army Homepage)September 16, 2008
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Alden thought he'd left behind his duties as a volunteer firefighter when he deployed as one of Albany Battalion's Europe Detachment recruiters in 2006.
On Feb. 21 of this year, however, he put his past training to the test in the face of a highway emergency and saved the life of a German driver by helping him escape from his flaming car and administering life-saving first aid.
As a result of this heroic action, Sgt. 1st Class Alden was awarded the Soldier's Medal on Aug. 28.
Alden, a senior guidance counselor assigned to the Kaiserslautern recruiting station, was on the autobahn driving to a conference when he saw the fiery wreck in the oncoming lane.
The award citation notes his "disregard for his own safety" as he ran across several lanes of busy highway to provide aid to the driver who was struggling to exit the crushed car. He extinguished the man's flaming clothing and provided immediate first aid before braving the flames in an attempt to rescue a second victim who, unfortunately, was beyond help.
With the car still flaming, Alden then took measures to ensure the safety of bystanders and moved the driver to a safer location. He then continued to render aid by treating his burns and ensuring that his airway remained open.
With his medical training, he was able to assist another witness, a doctor, to start an IV. Firefighters arrived minutes later and extinguished the vehicle fire.
Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ken Sullivan noted while presenting the award that Alden's actions were "the mark of a good Soldier", but his reaction that day was also the instinct of a good firefighter.
Since entering recruiting duty, Alden has served more than seven years as a volunteer with several fire departments including the Independent Fire Company, #4, in Charles Town, W. Va. while he was the station commander in Hagerstown, Md., part of Baltimore Battalion. In 2002 that fire company selected him as their Firefighter of the Year.
His specialized training includes rescue diving and swift water rescue techniques. "After I retire from the Army I'd like to work in the fire service full time," Alden says, "or maybe pursue a career as a flight medic."
He brushes off discussion about his actions on the highway that morning, focusing instead on the surprising reactions of the German Polizei officer. "He thanked me three or four times and said people don't do things like that very often," Alden notes, "but I honestly think anybody would have done it. Certainly any Soldier would."