FORT SILL, Okla. July 31, 2014 -- Soldiers are trained to protect on land, but Staff Sgt. Ronnie Moore, Fires Center of Excellence here, saved a life in water July 26 at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area.

According to a doctor at Oklahoma University (OU) Medical Center 14-year-old Preston Pitts had an epileptic seizure while swimming. Moore was the lifeguard and noncommissioned officer in charge, and saw Pitts go under.

"We train very hard as lifeguards, but we hope never to have to use it. When we do have a near-drowning like Preston, it's great that our training kicks in and we can save a life,"said Moore.

Moore went into action and told his fellow lifeguards to call 9-1-1 and get the automated external defibrillator, while Moore retrieved Pitts and brought him on the beach.

Once there, Moore found the teenager was not breathing and did not have a pulse. Moore performed CPR and revived him.

The lifeguards continued to observe the boy and care for him. Pitts had another possible seizure while the lifeguards waited for emergency medical services personnel to arrive and transport the boy to a local hospital. He was evacuated to the Children's Hospital at OUMedical Center shortly after.

"Staff Sergeant Moore was simply phenomenal. What a great Soldier, and, yes, a hero for more than what he has done on the battlefield, but right here at home," said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Fort Sill Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation director. "I am very proud of him and the team."

Moore and the other Fort Sill lifeguards went to visit Pitts July 29 in Oklahoma City to encourage him and see how he was progressing.

"The rewarding part of the job is when I actually saw Preston up and walking around. That made all the training worth it," said Moore.

Joel Pitts, Preston's father, said he and his family could not thank the lifeguards enough.

"We can't imagine our family without Preston and thanks to these Soldier lifeguards we don't have to. We'll be eternally grateful."

Pitts doesn't remember any part of the incident, and was upset he wasn't able to recall the helicopter ride to Oklahoma City.

Across the Army in fiscal 2013, there were 19 drownings.

Jason Browning, Fort Sill Aquatics manager, said like anything else in the Army, prevention is the priority.

While swimmers are enjoying LETRA, Rinehart Pool and Quinette Pool, those lifeguards are on alert. To keep their skills sharp, each lifeguard swims 300 meters before each shift. They also perform in-service training every two weeks where they rehearse rescue scenarios and refresh CPR and first aid skills.

Browning said Moore and the other lifeguards performed the first save of the summer. He said there has been one drowning incident in LETRA and four other rescues.

"Since 2011, our patronage has gone up, but our number of incidents has gone down. I relate that heavily to how well the staff is trained," said Browning.

Eighteen garrison Soldiers and nine civilian lifeguards are trained to react while a swimmer is in distress or before the swimmer actually enters the instinctive drowning phase.

"We call a swimmer someone who is swimming across the top of the water. Someone who is in distress is at a horizontal angle making very little or no movement forward. They may be able to call out for help, they may not," said Browning.

He said their goal is to get the swimmer out of the water in less than 2 minutes.

"In the instinctive drowning response 100 percent of the time they're straight up and down because their center of mass has gone below their center of buoyancy. All they're trying to do is get air," said Browning.

Browning said patrons can do their part by learning to swim before entering the water. Fort Sill offers many classes for children and progressive swim classes for adults. Units also may schedule physical training and drownproof training at Rinehart Fitness Center pool.

"It's not just one swim session that's going to teach you to swim. For every day out of the water, it's going to take you two to get back in shape as you were."

Browning said even great swimmers should not go out alone because emergencies can happen in open water such as a cramp, seizure or cardiac arrest.

He said knowing how to float alone is not an option for every person.

"Not everybody can float. Water has a specific gravity of 1.0 and depending on the individual's body makeup if they have a lot of muscle mass, their specific gravity is going to be greater than 1.0 and they're going to sink. That's why you have to swim."

He said other tips to stay safe include wearing a life jacket at all times in open water, knowing the area you're swimming in and never drinking alcohol and swimming.

"The two don't combine well. People misjudge what they're physically capable of doing and what they cannot do. It also makes them dehydrated especially if they're out in the sun."

For more information about swim lessons offered on post, call 580-442-3927/4836.