By Spc. Christopher M. Gaylord, 13th Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 13, 2009
The seventh of the Army values - and perhaps most vital among Soldiers in a deployed environment - is personal courage.
The afternoon of Aug. 28, 2008, should have been a calm and relaxing one for five Task Force Dragon Soldiers dining on Camp Slayer for a change of pace, but little did each one know he'd put his own personal courage to the test.
Upon returning to Camp Victory, this peaceful afternoon took a rapid turn for the worse, when one of the Soldiers noticed a dust cloud followed by a splash of water and then saw an overturned pickup truck in a roadside canal.
Without hesitation, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Shelton, officer-in-charge, electronics maintenance shop, TF Dragon, XVIII Airborne Corps, pulled over and rushed toward what he and his Soldiers thought was the result of indirect fire.
A young Ugandan EODT guard had rolled his vehicle into a canal, and was submerged in the dense, muddy water and paralyzed with fear. Thinking quickly, Shelton and his Soldiers pulled the man, who likely would have drowned otherwise, to safety.
"The guy would have drowned if we wouldn't have happened along," Shelton said, "but any other Soldier that would have been the first on the scene would have done exactly what we did."
On Feb. 4, Lt. Col. William Wanovich, commander, TF Dragon, stood before the entire battalion and presented awards for heroism to the five Soldiers at the task force's motor pool on Camp Victory. "I know that any Soldier standing in this formation would have done the same thing," Wanovich said.
Meritorious service medals were awarded to Shelton and his Soldier Sgt. Kacey Mickens, shop foreman, EMS, TF Dragon, XVIII ABC, for their actions, and Army commendation medals were presented to 1st Lt. Stephanie Goggans, executive officer, Company C, TF Dragon; Sgt. Edriria Pope, team chief, EMS, TF Dragon and Sgt. 1st Class Trena Agee, noncommissioned officer, EMS, TF Dragon.
In the eyes of the five Soldiers, their heroic actions were merely part of the job for which their extensive Army training has prepared them.
"I've done a lot of training in my military career, and some things just come second nature because you've done them so much," Mickens said.
Army values such as watching out for one another are the kinds of things Soldiers like Mickens have acquired throughout their careers.
Despite being awarded for heroism, Shelton said none of the troops consider themselves heroes.
"Fate just had us there at that moment in time when someone really needed us, and it was just what had to be done," Shelton said.
The incident not only proved to each Soldier the loyalty of his fellow teammates, but that the same steadfast qualities exist deep within every Soldier.
"I've been in the Army twenty years, so I've experienced a lot of stuff, and you can always count on the Soldiers to your left and right, even when you make a mistake or put yourself out on a limb," Shelton said.
That day strongly reinforced the oneness among nations working toward a common goal, and inspired teamwork and cooperation all across the board.
"It could have been anyone in the vehicle, but we're all fighting for the same cause," Mickens said. "The way I look at it, we're one big team, and nobody wants to lose a member of their team. I just wanted to do what I could to hold onto a member of our team."