FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, Feb. 1, 2007) - It was a busier day than normal at the Camp Aned Battalion Aid Station on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border when Maj. John Oh, a general surgeon attached to the 10th Mountain Division, found himself wondering if he would live to see another day.
It was March 2006 and Oh, only four months into his deployment, had just realized the shrapnel sticking out of a wounded Soldier's stomach was actually an unexploded Rocket Propelled Grenade.
"The medics had just started cutting the clothes and dressings off the Soldier when I saw the metal bar with fins protruding from his belly," Oh, now chief of general surgery at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood wrote in an e-mail. "I ordered everyone out of the (Battalion Aid Station) and put on my ballistic helmet and body armor."
Oh received the Soldier's Medal at a Jan. 25 ceremony honoring CRDAMC staffers for risking their lives to save others. Lt. Col. William Brock received an Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for assisting Oh. And, Sgt. Troy Galvan was awarded the Soldier's Medal for his saving the life of a women trapped in a burning vehicle.
"This is something we do every day - taking care of patients," said Oh, 35, of Beltsville, Md., then assigned to the 759th Medical Detachment, Forward Surgical Team, Task Force Med. "Our primary focus was to just take care of the patient. Everything else was secondary."
Once the Soldier was intubated - allowing necessary fluids to replenish the patient's body - explosive ordnance personnel examined X-rays to determine if the warhead was still attached to the rocket propelled grenade. Although the potential for explosion was less without the warhead, the fuel rod and detonator still carried the potential to blow-up at any point during the grenade removal surgery, Oh said. Despite the remaining risk, the battalion aid station operating room was prepared for an emergency surgery to remove the grenade.
Oh, along with a team of six, conducted the surgery wearing their usual surgical scrubs beneath Kevlar vests and ballistic helmets.
As Soldiers around the aid station and in the operating room uttered quiet prayers for success, Oh gently removed the grenade without detonation under the watchful eyes of the two explosive ordnance personnel.
Later in June, Oh said he visited the Soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who recently witnessed the birth of his second child.
Assisting Oh was Brock, 53, of Dallas, Texas, also assigned to the 759th Forward Surgical Team, Task Force Med. Brock intubated the Soldier. The 19-year veteran received the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for his actions.
While caring for the patient under these circumstances was difficult to do, "...anyone else would've done the same thing," Brock said.
Brock has been at Fort Hood since 2000 and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I felt the seriousness from the moment I saw the RPG hanging out," Brock said. "So at that very moment I knew what we were up against."
Galvan, 38, of San Antonio, Texas, was also awarded the Soldier's Medal for pulling a Fort Hood Soldier out of her burning vehicle before it exploded on U.S. Highway 190 near Nolanville - close to Fort Hood - in February 2006.
Driving home after a shift in the CRDAMC Mother-Baby Unit, Sgt. Troy Galvan had no idea what awaited him. Little did he imagine that Feb. 13 afternoon that he was about to lay his life on the line for another Soldier.
"I thought I was coming up on a dead person. And thank God she had a pulse," Galvan said. "We got her out. That was my main concern. The fire is there - get her out."
Galvan's medic and vehicle extraction training kicked in.
The woman awoke and started pleading with Galvan and two other men who stopped to help, saying, "Please don't let me burn." Luckily, one man had a fire extinguisher which temporarily lessened the fire, he said.
"So I jumped back in. I got the seat to recline, unbuckled her safety belt and started pulling her out. Then another guy jumped in the seat and helped me pull her out through the back. Another guy came up underneath, so there were three of us taking her up the embankment."
Less than one minute later, the car exploded in flames, Galvan said.
"As a medic, we train for this day-in and day-out. We're here to sustain life," Galvan said.
The rescued Soldier has since recovered and is serving in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division.
"I really don't have words to tell you how proud I am," said Col. Loree Sutton, CRDAMC commander.
"As a commander, it's a very rare honor to be able to bestow this level of award" on our Soldiers, Sutton said after the ceremony. "As they said, they were just doing their job. They were doing their duty. A very sacred duty."
The Soldier's Medal is America's highest decoration for heroism not involving actual combat with an enemy force.
The "V" device denotes awards of a particular medal for heroism.
(Jon Connor, Phillip Washburn and Mollie Miller contributed to this article.)