By Ms. Kristen Marquez (IMCOM)January 29, 2009
MANNHEIM, Germany -- Two Soldiers from the 272nd Military Police Company received the Army Commendation Medal in Mannheim Jan. 22 for their heroic actions in rescuing a family from an apartment fire.
Pfc. Jon Whitney and Pfc. Jerad McCaslin physically crossed through flames to assist Robin Boyer and her two daughters when the family's apartment on Benjamin Franklin Village in Mannheim caught fire in September.
"Pfc. Whitney and Pfc. McCaslin's actions were in keeping with the skill sets that the Military Police Corps strives to instill in law enforcement patrolmen," said Capt. Jimmy Hillabrandt, 272nd MP Company commander. "Daily, military police Soldiers are called to respond to various situations, which require immediate action in order to safely quell the situation. Soldiers have to use their own initiative, guided by trained policies and procedures, to respond in a manner that will quell the situation.
"I believe that these two Soldier's actions were key in keeping an already traumatic situation from possibly becoming tragic."
Boyer and her two daughters, Heidi and Brigette, were at home the night of Sept. 30 when a fire started in the stairwell of their building.
The fire blocked the front door, making escape virtually impossible. Boyer's husband, Staff Sgt. Greg Boyer, was serving his third tour in Iraq.
"The fire blocked my front door and made it impossible for anybody in the building to get out," Boyer said. "When I woke up and saw the flames through the peephole, I immediately called the MP station."
Around 2:15 a.m., Whitney received the call about the fire and headed toward the building, according to his account in the police report.
When Whitney arrived, he found no one outside, so he tried to enter the stairwell.
"As I tried to make entrance in the stairwell, the flames outside her door were too high for me to make it to her door," he said.
He headed to the rear of the building and made contact with the family at a back window. He instructed Boyer to have her children climb out the window to him.
One daughter, 9-year-old Heidi, made it out safely. Brigette, however, is blind, so getting her through the window wasn't the best option, according to Whitney.
By this time, McCaslin had arrived on scene and headed to the apartment. The flames had died down enough that he could enter the apartment through the front door, he said, so he carried Brigette out. He then entered the apartment again to escort Robin outside and a third time to rescue the family dogs.
"I noticed when (he) was walking out the front door carrying my daughter that my welcome rug was on fire," Boyer said. "I followed him and realized that this man was walking on fire to help my daughter."
Whitney attempted to wake other residents of the building by banging on windows and yelling before he and McCaslin went door-to-door to evacuate the building. The building coordinator arrived and helped scoop ashes and embers out of the stairwell.
Around 2:25 a.m., the German fire department, German Polizei and other MPs arrived on scene to help with crowd control and evaluations of the evacuated individuals.
"My husband and I are very thankful that these young men were there for us during this horrifying night," Boyer said. "We are proud to know they serve in our community."
The two Soldiers were directly responsible for preventing injury and the possible loss of life for several families in the community, according to Hillabrandt. Their instincts, he said, led to a timely response to the situation and greatly aided the follow-on supporting agencies.
"Too often we take for granted the services that community agencies give," he said. "I just wanted fellow residents of the Mannheim community to be aware of the professionalism of their local military police Soldiers.
"The members of the 272nd MP company take great pride in the trust the garrison places in them and their efforts toward making our community as safe as possible for our Soldiers and families."